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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator
Ephesians 1

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 1-2

Ephesians 1:1-2

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus.

Introductory greeting

In these words we have--

I. Paul’s description of himself. “An apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God.” He attributed nothing to the vigour of his faith, to the passion of his gratitude for the Divine goodness, to the completeness of his self-consecration to Christ’s service; he was living and acting under the control of forces which had their origin above and beyond himself; his apostolic work was the effect and expression of a Divine volition. He believed that the Divine will is the root and origin of all Christian righteousness and blessedness. And this is the secret of a strong and effective Christian life. Our spiritual activity reaches its greatest intensity when we are so filled with the glory of the Divine righteousness, the Divine love, and the Divine power, that we are conscious only of God, and all thought of ourselves is lost in Him.

II. Paul’s description of those to whom he is writing. They are “the saints which are at Ephesus, and the faithful in Christ Jesus.”

1. Saints. The title of all Christians--not attributing any personal merit to them, but simply recalling their prerogatives and obligations. It reminded them that God had made them His own; that they were “holy” because they belonged to Him. The temple had once been “holy,” not because of its magnitude, its stateliness, and the costly materials of which it was built, but because it was the house of God; and the tabernacle, which was erected in the wilderness, though a much meaner structure, was just as “holy” as the temple of Solomon, with its marble courts and its profusion of cedar and brass and silver and gold. The altars were “holy,” because they were erected for the service of God. The sacrifices were “holy,” because they were offered to Him. The priests were “holy” because they were divinely chosen to discharge the functions of the temple service. The Sabbath was “holy,” because God had placed His hand upon it, and separated its hours from common use. The whole Jewish people were “holy,” because they were organized into a nation, not for the common purposes which have been the ends of the national existence of other races, but to receive in trust for all mankind exceptional revelations of the character and will of God. And now, according to Paul’s conception, every Christian man was a temple, a sacrifice, a priest; his whole life was a sabbath; he belonged to an elect race; he was the subject of an invisible and Divine kingdom; he was a “saint,” i.e., one whom God has set apart for Himself. The act of consecration is God’s act, not ours. Our part, is subordinate and secondary. We have only to submit to the authority of the Divine claim, and to receive the dignity conferred by the Divine love.

2. Faithful. Those who have faith have also fidelity; faith guarantees fidelity.

3. In Christ Jesus. One of Paul’s characteristic phrases--the keynote of this Epistle.

III. Paul’s salvation or benediction. “Grace to you,” etc. A gospel, a message from God, bringing home to Christian hearts a fresh assurance of the “grace” of God the Father and of the Lord Jesus Christ, a fuller realization and a richer consciousness of the “peace,” the infinite and eternal blessings, which that grace conferred. If the true ideal of the Christian life were fulfilled, men would be conscious that whenever we came near to them Christ came near, bringing with Him the rest of heart, the courage, and the hope which His presence always inspires. When He was on earth those who touched the border of His garment were healed of physical sickness. Now that He is in heaven there streams from Him a mightier and more gracious power; and if our union with Christ and Christ’s union with us were more complete, that power, working through us, would be a perpetual source of blessing to mankind. (R. W. Dale, LL. D.)

Prefatory inscription

1. Ministers must inculcate to themselves, and to those with whom they have to deal, that their calling is from God. Even as civil magistrates give out their writs in the king’s name, with mention of the office they bear under him, to ensure due respect from the subjects, so this great Church officer mentions the position held by him under Christ, the King of the Church, that the things delivered by him may be accordingly received.

2. The quality of him who brings this Epistle to us is that he is an ambassador of Christ.

3. We must account it our greatest dignity that we belong to Christ.

4. It is the will of God that assigns to us our several callings.

5. All the members of the visible Church are to be saints.

6. In the most wicked places God gathers and maintains His people. Where God has His Church, we say, the devil has his chapel; so, on the other hand, where the devil has his cathedral, God has His people. As in nature we see a pleasant rose grow from amidst the thorns, and a most beautiful lily spring out of slimy, brackish places, and as God in the darkness of the night makes beautiful lights arise, so here, in the darkest place, He will have some men who shall shine as lights in the midst of a perverse generation.

7. It is faith in Christ alone which makes men saints. Faith produces

The inscription

1. The wisdom of God hath judged it most convenient to teach His people, not immediately by Himself or by the ministry of angels, but of men like unto ourselves; hereby to try His people’s obedience (Matthew 10:40), and because their infirmity could not well endure the ministry of others (Exodus 20:19).

2. It doth not follow hence that every man who thinketh himself sufficiently gifted may take upon him the office of the ministry, except he be called unto it of God.

3. Even those who are saints and believers do stand in need of God’s grace and favour both to pardon and subdue sin, seeing the best of them are but sanctified in part (1 Corinthians 13:12), having the dregs of corruption always remaining and frequently stirring in them (Romans 7:23). (J. Fergusson.)

Grace be to you and peace.

The apostolic salutation

1. It is the duty of a minister of Christ to bless the faithful children of the Church in the name of God (Numbers 6:23).

(a) The spirit of discerning (Matthew 7:20).

(b) The authority which God has bestowed.

2. Even the holiest justified persons have need of grace.

3. The best thing we can seek is the grace of God. This grace is our life; it is better than life. As the marigold opens when the sun shines over it, and shuts when it is withdrawn, so our life follows this favour; we are enlarged if we feel it, and troubled if it is hidden.

4. True peace is a most singular blessing (Philippians 4:7; John 14:22).

5. All true peace is bred in us from the knowledge of God’s love toward us.

6. God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ are the authors of true peace. Let us, then, learn whither to fly, that our souls may be settled in true peace, such as the world cannot take from us; let us seek it of Him who, if He quiet, nothing can disturb. Many, when disquieted in mind and body, fly to such means as may still those pains which they feel smart upon them; and when they have, with music, company, etc., quieted their troubled spirit, then they think their peace is well restored. If a creditor should set a sergeant upon our backs, were it wisdom in the debtor to compound with him, and corrupt him, and to think all safe while the sergeant winks at him? Everybody would account this folly; for he is never a whit the more out of danger till the creditor be agreed with. Thus it is likewise in seeking our peace by stilling our evils, and not by quieting the anger of God, which is justly kindled against us. (Paul Bayne.)

Grace and peace from God

1. Believers then, as now, required grace continually to keep them, and enable them to stand before their God. As our bodily frames require fresh food for their daily sustenance, and without it would grow weak, languish, and die, so do we in a spiritual sense require continual supplies of heavenly refreshment.

2. But it is not only grace, but peace too, for which the apostle prays for them. True peace cannot exist without grace--and peace is the consequence of grace. The believer stands, through grace, accepted, justified by the precious blood of Jesus; the sweet apprehension of Christ by faith brings pardon and peace to his soul.

3. And as then, so now, it is our consolation to remember the source from whence alone grace and peace can flow. Not from Paul, Apollos, or Cephas, but “from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Jehovah, the Father, is the fountain, and Jehovah, the Son, the channel, of all blessings. The fountain of living waters as redundant as at the creation--the Sun of righteousness with undiminished effulgence--the Ocean unfathomable in the depths of love and mercy,--“an ocean without bottom or shore.” Oh, how lamentably we live below our privileges! How little we bathe in that Fountain! how little we bask in that Sun! how little we ride buoyant on that Ocean with our anchor cast within the veil! (R. J. McGhee, M. A.)

Grace and peace

Grace is in the Holy Scripture in every way connected with God. The Father is the God of all grace (1 Peter 5:10); Jesus is the author, giver, and dispenser of grace (Acts 15:11; 2 Corinthians 8:9; Romans 16:20; 1 Thessalonians 5:28); and the Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of grace (Hebrews 10:29), who dispenses to the Church His gifts and graces as He pleases (1 Corinthians 12:1-14). The seat of the Divine Majesty is the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16); the gospel is called the Word of His grace; and believers are the children of His grace. The first word the young believer utters is grace, and the oldest dies with the same word on his lips. It is this free grace which makes God the sovereign giver, and man the humble receiver; it is this which lends to the gospel its chief glory, and renders speechless in the presence of God those who reject it. It is this which roots out the principles of pride and human merit, and surrounds the mercy of God with unparalleled splendour. Incarnation, atonement, resurrection, and mediation are but steps in the manifestation of His grace. His acts are in keeping with His character; and neither in creation nor in providence does the Divine Majesty shine forth more gloriously than it does from the throne of grace. The apostle connects grace with peace: “Grace be to you, and peace,” etc. Peace is a lovely characteristic of the gospel. Everything breathes peace and pardon to the believer. But what does the word mean? It includes peace with God, peace of conscience, and peace with our fellow men; it declares that the veil between you and God is rent, and that you have free access to the Holiest of all; it is the assurance to your trembling conscience that the enmity is taken away, and that God is love. This is what we receive in believing, which Jesus promised, and which the world can neither give nor take away. It is strong and perfect in proportion as the eye rests on Christ; it becomes weak and broken in proportion as you love earthly things. In the assurance of this peace we brave the storms of life, and in the same tranquillizing conviction we fall asleep in Jesus. Sin alone can disturb this calm and blissful repose. It bids defiance to the rage of the persecutor, and is never more radiant than when in pain and torture it looks upward to the martyr’s crown (Acts 7:60). (W. Graham, D. D.)

St. Paul’s salutation effective

The new man is a “habitation for God.” He breathes out his desires, not from his own life alone, but from “God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.” The salutation of such an one is not in word only. He is not a mere messenger of Christ, but a medium. We must assuredly believe that whenever Paul wrote, “Grace be to you, and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,” there was an actual outgoing of grace and peace from God through him. No one can live in God without being a channel for God. The vessel that receives its supply from an exhaustless source must overflow. Our Lord, who spake no vain words, declared of His true disciple that “rivers of living water” should flow out from him. These living streams of grace and peace can never be lost. They may be rejected by those whom you desire to bless; but in that case, our Lord says, they return to you again. What you give you have. The river of life which flows, and flows evermore, from God, having completed its circuit, returns to God again. “We are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish.” (John Pulsford.)

Salvation is all of grace

Grace, grace, free grace, the merits of Christ for nothing; white and fair, and large Saviour mercy, which is another sort of thing than creature mercy or law mercy; yea, a thousand degrees above angel mercy, hath been and must be the Rock that we drowned souls must swim to. (Rutherford.)

Value of grace

Henry Welch (one of the Puritans) was, I suppose, a preacher of no extraordinary ability, but it is said of him that, “though he did not excel in gifts, it was made up to him in grace.” (Dr. Halley.)

Grace and peace secretly given

Dew falls insensibly and invisibly. You may be in the field all night, and not perceive the dew falling, and yet find great dew upon the grass. So the operations and blessings of God’s Word, and graces thereof, are invisible; we feel the work, but the manner of the working is unknown to us. No man can see the conversion of another, nor can well discern his own. The Word works by little and little, like as the dew falls. (B. Keach.)

Peace from Christ

I have spilled the ink over a bill, and so have blotted it till it can hardly be read; but this is quite another thing from having the debt blotted out, for that cannot be till payment is made. So a man may blot his sins from his memory and quiet his mind with false hopes, but the peace which this will bring him is widely different from that which arises from God’s forgiveness of sin through the satisfaction which Jesus made in His atonement. Our blotting is one thing; God’s blotting out is something far higher. (C. H. Spurgeon.)


Verse 1-2

Ephesians 1:1-2

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus.

Introductory greeting

In these words we have--

I. Paul’s description of himself. “An apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God.” He attributed nothing to the vigour of his faith, to the passion of his gratitude for the Divine goodness, to the completeness of his self-consecration to Christ’s service; he was living and acting under the control of forces which had their origin above and beyond himself; his apostolic work was the effect and expression of a Divine volition. He believed that the Divine will is the root and origin of all Christian righteousness and blessedness. And this is the secret of a strong and effective Christian life. Our spiritual activity reaches its greatest intensity when we are so filled with the glory of the Divine righteousness, the Divine love, and the Divine power, that we are conscious only of God, and all thought of ourselves is lost in Him.

II. Paul’s description of those to whom he is writing. They are “the saints which are at Ephesus, and the faithful in Christ Jesus.”

1. Saints. The title of all Christians--not attributing any personal merit to them, but simply recalling their prerogatives and obligations. It reminded them that God had made them His own; that they were “holy” because they belonged to Him. The temple had once been “holy,” not because of its magnitude, its stateliness, and the costly materials of which it was built, but because it was the house of God; and the tabernacle, which was erected in the wilderness, though a much meaner structure, was just as “holy” as the temple of Solomon, with its marble courts and its profusion of cedar and brass and silver and gold. The altars were “holy,” because they were erected for the service of God. The sacrifices were “holy,” because they were offered to Him. The priests were “holy” because they were divinely chosen to discharge the functions of the temple service. The Sabbath was “holy,” because God had placed His hand upon it, and separated its hours from common use. The whole Jewish people were “holy,” because they were organized into a nation, not for the common purposes which have been the ends of the national existence of other races, but to receive in trust for all mankind exceptional revelations of the character and will of God. And now, according to Paul’s conception, every Christian man was a temple, a sacrifice, a priest; his whole life was a sabbath; he belonged to an elect race; he was the subject of an invisible and Divine kingdom; he was a “saint,” i.e., one whom God has set apart for Himself. The act of consecration is God’s act, not ours. Our part, is subordinate and secondary. We have only to submit to the authority of the Divine claim, and to receive the dignity conferred by the Divine love.

2. Faithful. Those who have faith have also fidelity; faith guarantees fidelity.

3. In Christ Jesus. One of Paul’s characteristic phrases--the keynote of this Epistle.

III. Paul’s salvation or benediction. “Grace to you,” etc. A gospel, a message from God, bringing home to Christian hearts a fresh assurance of the “grace” of God the Father and of the Lord Jesus Christ, a fuller realization and a richer consciousness of the “peace,” the infinite and eternal blessings, which that grace conferred. If the true ideal of the Christian life were fulfilled, men would be conscious that whenever we came near to them Christ came near, bringing with Him the rest of heart, the courage, and the hope which His presence always inspires. When He was on earth those who touched the border of His garment were healed of physical sickness. Now that He is in heaven there streams from Him a mightier and more gracious power; and if our union with Christ and Christ’s union with us were more complete, that power, working through us, would be a perpetual source of blessing to mankind. (R. W. Dale, LL. D.)

Prefatory inscription

1. Ministers must inculcate to themselves, and to those with whom they have to deal, that their calling is from God. Even as civil magistrates give out their writs in the king’s name, with mention of the office they bear under him, to ensure due respect from the subjects, so this great Church officer mentions the position held by him under Christ, the King of the Church, that the things delivered by him may be accordingly received.

2. The quality of him who brings this Epistle to us is that he is an ambassador of Christ.

3. We must account it our greatest dignity that we belong to Christ.

4. It is the will of God that assigns to us our several callings.

5. All the members of the visible Church are to be saints.

6. In the most wicked places God gathers and maintains His people. Where God has His Church, we say, the devil has his chapel; so, on the other hand, where the devil has his cathedral, God has His people. As in nature we see a pleasant rose grow from amidst the thorns, and a most beautiful lily spring out of slimy, brackish places, and as God in the darkness of the night makes beautiful lights arise, so here, in the darkest place, He will have some men who shall shine as lights in the midst of a perverse generation.

7. It is faith in Christ alone which makes men saints. Faith produces

The inscription

1. The wisdom of God hath judged it most convenient to teach His people, not immediately by Himself or by the ministry of angels, but of men like unto ourselves; hereby to try His people’s obedience (Matthew 10:40), and because their infirmity could not well endure the ministry of others (Exodus 20:19).

2. It doth not follow hence that every man who thinketh himself sufficiently gifted may take upon him the office of the ministry, except he be called unto it of God.

3. Even those who are saints and believers do stand in need of God’s grace and favour both to pardon and subdue sin, seeing the best of them are but sanctified in part (1 Corinthians 13:12), having the dregs of corruption always remaining and frequently stirring in them (Romans 7:23). (J. Fergusson.)

Grace be to you and peace.

The apostolic salutation

1. It is the duty of a minister of Christ to bless the faithful children of the Church in the name of God (Numbers 6:23).

(a) The spirit of discerning (Matthew 7:20).

(b) The authority which God has bestowed.

2. Even the holiest justified persons have need of grace.

3. The best thing we can seek is the grace of God. This grace is our life; it is better than life. As the marigold opens when the sun shines over it, and shuts when it is withdrawn, so our life follows this favour; we are enlarged if we feel it, and troubled if it is hidden.

4. True peace is a most singular blessing (Philippians 4:7; John 14:22).

5. All true peace is bred in us from the knowledge of God’s love toward us.

6. God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ are the authors of true peace. Let us, then, learn whither to fly, that our souls may be settled in true peace, such as the world cannot take from us; let us seek it of Him who, if He quiet, nothing can disturb. Many, when disquieted in mind and body, fly to such means as may still those pains which they feel smart upon them; and when they have, with music, company, etc., quieted their troubled spirit, then they think their peace is well restored. If a creditor should set a sergeant upon our backs, were it wisdom in the debtor to compound with him, and corrupt him, and to think all safe while the sergeant winks at him? Everybody would account this folly; for he is never a whit the more out of danger till the creditor be agreed with. Thus it is likewise in seeking our peace by stilling our evils, and not by quieting the anger of God, which is justly kindled against us. (Paul Bayne.)

Grace and peace from God

1. Believers then, as now, required grace continually to keep them, and enable them to stand before their God. As our bodily frames require fresh food for their daily sustenance, and without it would grow weak, languish, and die, so do we in a spiritual sense require continual supplies of heavenly refreshment.

2. But it is not only grace, but peace too, for which the apostle prays for them. True peace cannot exist without grace--and peace is the consequence of grace. The believer stands, through grace, accepted, justified by the precious blood of Jesus; the sweet apprehension of Christ by faith brings pardon and peace to his soul.

3. And as then, so now, it is our consolation to remember the source from whence alone grace and peace can flow. Not from Paul, Apollos, or Cephas, but “from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Jehovah, the Father, is the fountain, and Jehovah, the Son, the channel, of all blessings. The fountain of living waters as redundant as at the creation--the Sun of righteousness with undiminished effulgence--the Ocean unfathomable in the depths of love and mercy,--“an ocean without bottom or shore.” Oh, how lamentably we live below our privileges! How little we bathe in that Fountain! how little we bask in that Sun! how little we ride buoyant on that Ocean with our anchor cast within the veil! (R. J. McGhee, M. A.)

Grace and peace

Grace is in the Holy Scripture in every way connected with God. The Father is the God of all grace (1 Peter 5:10); Jesus is the author, giver, and dispenser of grace (Acts 15:11; 2 Corinthians 8:9; Romans 16:20; 1 Thessalonians 5:28); and the Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of grace (Hebrews 10:29), who dispenses to the Church His gifts and graces as He pleases (1 Corinthians 12:1-14). The seat of the Divine Majesty is the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16); the gospel is called the Word of His grace; and believers are the children of His grace. The first word the young believer utters is grace, and the oldest dies with the same word on his lips. It is this free grace which makes God the sovereign giver, and man the humble receiver; it is this which lends to the gospel its chief glory, and renders speechless in the presence of God those who reject it. It is this which roots out the principles of pride and human merit, and surrounds the mercy of God with unparalleled splendour. Incarnation, atonement, resurrection, and mediation are but steps in the manifestation of His grace. His acts are in keeping with His character; and neither in creation nor in providence does the Divine Majesty shine forth more gloriously than it does from the throne of grace. The apostle connects grace with peace: “Grace be to you, and peace,” etc. Peace is a lovely characteristic of the gospel. Everything breathes peace and pardon to the believer. But what does the word mean? It includes peace with God, peace of conscience, and peace with our fellow men; it declares that the veil between you and God is rent, and that you have free access to the Holiest of all; it is the assurance to your trembling conscience that the enmity is taken away, and that God is love. This is what we receive in believing, which Jesus promised, and which the world can neither give nor take away. It is strong and perfect in proportion as the eye rests on Christ; it becomes weak and broken in proportion as you love earthly things. In the assurance of this peace we brave the storms of life, and in the same tranquillizing conviction we fall asleep in Jesus. Sin alone can disturb this calm and blissful repose. It bids defiance to the rage of the persecutor, and is never more radiant than when in pain and torture it looks upward to the martyr’s crown (Acts 7:60). (W. Graham, D. D.)

St. Paul’s salutation effective

The new man is a “habitation for God.” He breathes out his desires, not from his own life alone, but from “God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.” The salutation of such an one is not in word only. He is not a mere messenger of Christ, but a medium. We must assuredly believe that whenever Paul wrote, “Grace be to you, and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,” there was an actual outgoing of grace and peace from God through him. No one can live in God without being a channel for God. The vessel that receives its supply from an exhaustless source must overflow. Our Lord, who spake no vain words, declared of His true disciple that “rivers of living water” should flow out from him. These living streams of grace and peace can never be lost. They may be rejected by those whom you desire to bless; but in that case, our Lord says, they return to you again. What you give you have. The river of life which flows, and flows evermore, from God, having completed its circuit, returns to God again. “We are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish.” (John Pulsford.)

Salvation is all of grace

Grace, grace, free grace, the merits of Christ for nothing; white and fair, and large Saviour mercy, which is another sort of thing than creature mercy or law mercy; yea, a thousand degrees above angel mercy, hath been and must be the Rock that we drowned souls must swim to. (Rutherford.)

Value of grace

Henry Welch (one of the Puritans) was, I suppose, a preacher of no extraordinary ability, but it is said of him that, “though he did not excel in gifts, it was made up to him in grace.” (Dr. Halley.)

Grace and peace secretly given

Dew falls insensibly and invisibly. You may be in the field all night, and not perceive the dew falling, and yet find great dew upon the grass. So the operations and blessings of God’s Word, and graces thereof, are invisible; we feel the work, but the manner of the working is unknown to us. No man can see the conversion of another, nor can well discern his own. The Word works by little and little, like as the dew falls. (B. Keach.)

Peace from Christ

I have spilled the ink over a bill, and so have blotted it till it can hardly be read; but this is quite another thing from having the debt blotted out, for that cannot be till payment is made. So a man may blot his sins from his memory and quiet his mind with false hopes, but the peace which this will bring him is widely different from that which arises from God’s forgiveness of sin through the satisfaction which Jesus made in His atonement. Our blotting is one thing; God’s blotting out is something far higher. (C. H. Spurgeon.)


Verse 3

Ephesians 1:3

Blessed he the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.

Blessed be God

Observe well, that the same word is used in reference to our wish towards God and God’s act towards us: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us.” It is a very striking thing that our poor pebble stones of wishes should be valued so much that the same word should be used in reference to them as in reference to the priceless diamonds of grace which the Lord hath bestowed upon us. We bless God because He blesses us. “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits.” Now, it is easy to understand how the Father of mercies, from whom every good and perfect gift proceeds, really blesses us; but how can we be said to bless Him?--and what is the distinction between that and praising Him? For there is such a distinction, since we read, “All Thy works shall praise Thee, O Lord, and Thy saints shall bless Thee.” Praise rises even from lifeless objects, as they display the power and wisdom of their Creator; but intelligence, will, and intent are needful for blessing God. Praise is the manifestation of our inward reverence and esteem: it adores and magnifies; but in blessing God we think well of Him, and wish well to Him, and desire that others may do the same. In blessing God there is the desire to do good to God even as He doth to us, if it were possible for us to do so. We fail in the power wherewith to accomplish such a desire, but it is well that it is in our hearts. When we wish other men to love and serve the Lord, and do Him homage, we are blessing Him. When we desire to love Him more ourselves, and feel our hearts burn with aspirations after fellowship with Him, we are blessing Him. When we are zealous to make known the truth of the gospel which glorifies God, and to make known His Son in whom especially He is revealed, we are blessing God.

I. Here we have, first of all, God the Father viewed aright. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

1. When the Divine Father is viewed aright He becomes the object of our gratitude, not of our dread. Instead of trembling before Him as before an austere judge, we rejoice in Him as a tender Father.

2. Next, if we would view the Father aright we must regard Him as the God of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is a wonderful title. It is blessed to view God as the God of Abraham, but how much more as the God of our Lord Jesus Christ! Jesus, after His resurrection, called Him “My Father, and your Father: My God, and your God.”

3. The text title is “the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” which may respect the double filiation of Christ. First, as to His Godhead: there is that mysterious sonship which we cannot understand, but which is nevertheless clearly revealed. He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ as Jesus is God. And then there is that second sonship which belongs to Christ as man, in which again He is said to be the Son of God. “God sent forth His Son, made of a woman.” The Father thrice said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Even as Jacob blessed Ephraim and Manasseh because of his love to Joseph even so the great Father lays His mighty hand in benediction upon all His chosen, and blesses the very least believer as He blesses His Son Jesus.

II. We come, secondly, to notice the blessing which comes from the Father as viewed by faith. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.”

1. The blessing of God even the Father has fallen from all eternity upon all who are in Christ, and that in the most copious manner, for the one blessing includes “all spiritual blessings.” This is a very pleasant thing to me, because there can be no blessing like that of God. “I wet,” said one of old, “whom He blesseth is blessed.” Satan may curse you; you may already be suffering the curse of the Fall; but, if God blesses you, what of all this? The blessing of God maketh rich, safe, happy.

2. I would call your attention very particularly to the fact that it is here stated that God has already given the blessing. Strictly speaking, I suppose it should be read, “God blessed us with all spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus”; and He continues still to do the same. Like as when the Lord blessed Abraham He gave him the land of Canaan, so has He given to you all covenant blessings.

3. These blessings are ours personally, for He hath blessed us. It is not upon the clouds that the blessing falls, but upon individuals. “He loved me, and gave Himself for me.” The Lord hath said to His people, “Ye are the blessed of the Lord and your offspring with you.” Personal appropriation is the main thing that we need; all else lies ready to our hand.

4. Furthermore, note well that our heavenly Father has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ. Spiritual blessings are heavenly things; they come from heaven, they lead to heaven, they are of a heavenly nature, and are such as are enjoyed in heaven itself. It is a wonderful thing that, even here on earth, the saints enjoy and experience heavenly blessings; for a new nature is a heavenly thing, and love, and joy in God, and rest, and safety, and acceptance in the Beloved are all heavenly things. When God made the covenant with Abraham which gave to him the land of Canaan, Abraham had not yet a foot of land that he could call his own, and when he died he only possessed a cave for burial; but yet, in truth, according to the decrees of heaven, the land of Canaan belonged to Abraham and his seed; forbad not the Lord said, “Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates”? They had the title deeds of it, though for a while the Canaanites held it as tenants upon lease. Now, all the spiritual blessings which belong to the heavenly estate at this moment are the property of the heirs of heaven, and God hath said to each one el them, “Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)

All blessings derived from and ascribed to God

1. A good heart must be ready, on consideration of God’s benefits, to break forth into praise. St. Paul cannot speak or think of them, but his heart and mouth glorify God.

2. Every Christian heart is to magnify God, in that He has been the God of Christ our Lord.

3. The sense and knowledge of God blessing us is that which makes Him bless us again.

4. God blesses all His children, and bestows on them many gifts.

5. The faithful ones and sanctified are they who are blessed of the Father.

6. Spiritual blessings make the regenerate man thankful.

7. All our blessings are given us in the heavens.

8. God deals liberally with His children, giving them all kinds of spiritual blessings.

9. We come to be blessed in and through Christ our Lord.

Spiritual blessings from the Father

I. The apostle begins with blessing; three times in the one verse does he use the same word: God is the blessed one who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places. Our condition as fallen creatures is cursed; the vengeance of a violated law is suspended over us; and the original malady, spreading like a poison through all the members of our race, and through all the fountains of our being, hath laid us under the law of the curse; so that death must feed upon us, and sin and Satan have triumphed over us, because we are cursed. He that created alone can deliver. The blessing of the Creator was pronounced over us at the beginning (Genesis 1:28), and the stability of the new creation stands only in the blessing of God (1 Peter 1:5). How beautiful and natural is this word of the apostle: “Blessed be the God who has blessed us”! He is the ocean source from which all blessings flow, and the ocean home to which all holy and blessed creatures must return with their songs of gratitude and praise. He is the Blessed God, because He is the universal Blesser.

II. The name of God is here contrasted with the Old Testament name, which is “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”; but in this name there is no paternity. He is their God, and they are His people; their Creator, King, and Preserver, whom they are bound to worship and obey. But His name in relation to the Gentile Church is “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

III. But what are those spiritual blessings with which He has blessed us? These are the gifts and graces, and manifold operations of the Holy Spirit (Romans 1:11; Romans 15:29; 2 Corinthians 9:5; Galatians 3:8-9; Acts 3:16); they are in Christ as their centre, and descend to us from the heavenly regions or abodes. All our glories are concentrated there. (W. Graham, D. D.)

Spiritual blessings

You will observe that the word “places” is printed in italics. It has no existence in the original, and, as the margin suggests, we may read either “heavenly places” or “heavenly things”; and “heavenly things” seems to be, upon the whole, the better rendering here. And the word “heavenly” probably has reference more to character than to locality. He hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly things; that it to say, spiritual heavenly blessings, as contrasted with the earthly and temporal blessings. He hath blessed us with all these spiritual heavenly blessings--with all of them. Now, friends, there are some earthly temporal blessings with which God does not bless. Do not let us grumble, or be unthankful at all; but I suppose that every man feels that there is something in his temporal lot that gives him dissatisfaction. He knows that God has some good gift in this world that He has not bestowed upon him. He would like a little more bodily health and strength; he would like a little more money--everybody would, or nearly everybody I have met with, when he is honest; and this and that we should like to have this and that that we do not possess, and more of this and that that we do possess. But no; God will not give us all the temporal and earthly blessings, and undoubtedly for very good reasons, for He knows, and every man of common sense also knows, that it would be the easiest thing in the world to spoil him utterly by giving him a very large amount of this world’s good. So He does not bless us with all temporal blessings; but when it comes to the spiritual blessings there is no need of His dealing scantily and carefully here--no need of His withholding any one of them; and He does not withhold any one of them, but He has blessed us with all the spiritual blessings. There is not one of these that can do us any harm; there is not one of these but must do us good. And so God gives them all, and with a right royally liberal hand. (H. S. Brown.)

Counting the blessings

There is a story of an American scholar of high character and strong mind who finally became eminent, that in early life he went with his bride to a remote and unattractive part of the country to enter on his profession, both of them leaving behind great social advantages, a brilliant group of friends, charming homes, beautiful scenery, and fine libraries. Both of them were homesick. One calamity after another fell upon them--ill-health, loss of eyesight, the death of a child, poverty. Some months of discouragement and depression had passed, and the courage, patience, and cheerfulness of the delicately bred and desolate young mother were nearly gone. One evening, after a peculiarly hard day, the husband called his wife into his darkened room, where he was lying with his eyes bandaged, and said to her, as she sat down by him dejected and complaining, “My dear, suppose we try together to make out a complete list of our mercies.” They went about it; it lengthened a good deal beyond their expectations; and the result was what everybody sees it must have been. In that family, and in a somewhat wider circle, it has become a maxim repeated in trying times, “Let’s count our blessings.”

Through Jesus Christ

The disciple--the true believer--stands to Christ in the relation of at once a faithful subject and a younger brother. But God above is the God and Father of Jesus Christ. This relation is also indissoluble. He is God’s Christ. He is the Father’s Eternal Son. We are not called on to deal with God, in the first instance, as the absolute Jehovah, or to approach to Him in any case in our own right or name. But coming to Christ, as sinners yet in faith, and then through Him to God--our prayers, our praises, our whole service ascends to His Father and to ours, to His God and to ours. That this is not a mere idea, or one that has no practical significance, might be shown from the most familiar experiences in life. Do you not consider that the relatives of those who are related to you are from this very circumstance rendered accessible at all times, and more particularly when any emergency arises, and you need their help? Nay, suppose you could claim with the sovereign a connection of only a very distant sort, through some one intermediate between you width whom you are more nearly connected, and that you desired for some purpose to engage the sovereign’s interest in your behalf, would not the fact of such a connection at once embolden you in your errand, and form a prevailing motive on the part of the sovereign to admit you into his presence, and grant your request? In like manner (to illustrate things Divine by things human), when you are animated with the spirit of praise or the spirit of prayer--when you either come with your offering to God or would secure from God the desire of your hearts--then the fact that He is the God and Father of your Lord Jesus Christ must both encourage you, and must move towards you the Divine regards, and render you acceptable. Your prayers, your praises, are accepted in the Beloved. (W. Alves, M. A.)

Spiritual blessing

The expression “with all spiritual blessings” would be better translated “with all spiritual blessing”--this word being in the singular in the original. The idea is a comprehensive one; it being evidently intended not merely to indicate a diversity or multiplicity of blessings which, as believers, we receive from God, but also to denote the totality of such blessings in a single word. It is “the blessing” of the covenant of grace in all its parts--salvation from its origin to its consummation, for which Paul here blesses God, in the name of each true believer. The various privileges, honours, and possessions, of a spiritual nature which God confers on us in Christ, all hang together--one is not without the rest--and all together make up one blessing. He who has received a part may be sure of the whole. There are two senses in which the term “spiritual” may be understood, as descriptive of the nature of the blessing. It may either be taken as referring to that department of our being which is undoubtedly chiefly affected by the blessings of salvation, namely, our spirit or soul; or it may be taken as referring to the source or origin of these blessings, namely, that Holy Spirit of God, who takes of the things that are Christ’s, and bestows them on us. In the former of these senses the blessings of salvation would be extolled on the ground that they do not principally or mainly refer to the body and its necessities and wants, which are of a lower and more earthly character, but to the soul or spirit, which is the nobler pair of us, and whose wants and necessities are of a vastly higher order. This is indeed true. But the word spiritual generally describes that which is produced by the Spirit of God. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” It leads our minds to that blessed Divine agent as the author of a gracious work in the soul of each redeemed sinner, when He comes and takes up His abode there, and produces all the peaceable fruits of righteousness to the praise and glory of God. In this view, which is the true meaning of the passage, we are not called on to make any distinction between our souls and bodies, as if the blessings of salvation affected the former only, and not at all the latter. The “blessing” is spiritual because it comes from, and is applied by, the Holy Spirit of God; and we are blessed just as we are, and in whatever may we live and move and have our being. We are brought body as well as soul under the blessing. We are justified, sanctified, glorified, soul, body, and spirit. The body participates in the redemption of Christ. It also will at last become a spiritual body--adapted to, and fitted for, the exercises of a perfected soul. Even now it is the temple of the Holy Ghost; and, as affected directly or indirectly by His indwelling presence, it is less or more a spiritual body. Everything is here included, whether it relate to that nobler and higher part--the soul, or to that gross and earthly tabernacle, that body--provided only it come from the Spirit of God, whose nature is holy, and whose work must also be holy. (W. Alves, M. A.)

Seven blessings of being “in Christ”

I. The first blessing is deliverance from the deadly curse which sin entails. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus.” The sentence of eternal death is removed from every one who accepts Christ, in faith, as an atoning Saviour. Such an one is no longer under the law to be eternally punished, but under grace he is a forgiven man.

II. Of this life Christ is the single source. Paul addresses the Church at Rome as “alive unto God in Jesus Christ our Lord.” The Master said, “Because I live ye shall live also.” At the very acme of his assurance the great apostle could say no more than “It is not I, but Christ that liveth in me.” If the nurseryman inserts the graft of a golden pippin into an apple tree, that graft might say truly, It is not I that live, but the whole tree liveth in me; the trunk itself is pledged to send me sustaining sap. The reason why so many of our Church members are such poor, stunted, sapless creatures is that they are trying to keep alive out of Christ.

III. So Divine a thing is this life of holiness in its origin, that it is described as a new creation. Man can construct out of materials at his hand; God alone can create out of nothing. “If any man be in Christ he is a new creature.” And this word “new” signifies also what is fresh, and unimpaired, and unworn, like a bright garment from its maker’s hands.

IV. A fourth blessing is “acceptance in the beloved.” If we are received into favour, it is solely for Christ’s sake.

V. Peace is the fifth blessing in this casket of jewels. The peace of God which passeth comprehension shall guard your hearts and thoughts in Christ Jesus. Happiness beyond the reach of outside disturbance is assured to the believer, and harmony with God.

VI. The next blessing is fulness of spiritual supply. Paul writes to his Colossian brethren, “Ye are complete in Him. Dean Alford’s reading is a happy one--“Ye are filled full in Christ.” This is the pleroma, the inexhaustible reservoir which no giving doth impoverish. Why need I hunger when in my Father’s house and in my Saviour’s heart are such wealth beyond a whole universe to drain?

VII. After reviewing all these priceless blessings, the exultant believer shouts--“Thanks be unto God who always causeth us to triumph in Christ!” This is the believer’s battle cry and paean of victory. (T. L. Cuyler, D. D.)

Spiritual blessings in Christ

There is a blessing from God in the health of our bodies and in the comforts of our homes, in the bounty of the seasons and the variety of our pleasures; but believers in Christ tenderly and adoringly acknowledge far other blessings than these. Our earthly blessings are but the shadows of blessings. Corruption and vanity attach to them all. They cannot abide with us. They comfort us, much as the gourd did Jonah: but there is a worm at the root of them all. They win upon our hearts, we are held by them, as in a delicious snare; but while we dream of delights and delights, the withering season has already commenced, and the hour hastens which will see us stript and broken hearted. Our Heavenly Father’s blessings in Christ Jesus will never wither, nor leave us. Has Christ a “glorious body”? has He an incorruptible kingdom? will He reign in life and glory forever? His blessedness and ours are the same. “The glory which Thou hast given Me, I have given them” The kingdom of the Incarnation is a universality. It includes “all things.” (John Pulsford.)

In the heavenlies

The key word of this Epistle. Found nowhere else in Scripture. It stands in four different connections; and in all the four it denotes a place; an ideal locality; a sphere of action, experience, and discovery; a stage, a platform, or arena, on which different movements are going on, and different scenes of interest are enacted.

I. In the heavenlies you have a blessed home; a home in which you are greatly blessed, and bless Him who blesses you. The blessings are the Spirit’s. And they are in Christ.

1. He has chosen you to be the objects of His eternal, sovereign, pure, and holy love.

2. He has predestinated or appointed you unto the adoption of children to Himself.

3. You are accepted in the Beloved.

4. You have redemption.

5. You become members of the great family of all the faithful in heaven and on earth.

6. You obtain an inheritance in Christ.

7. You have a present seal and earnest of the inheritance; a foretaste of future glory.

II. A seat of lofty eminence (See Ephesians 1:20; Ephesians 2:6).

1. God quickens you together with Christ.

2. He raises you up together.

3. As the result of His thus quickening you together with Christ, and raising you up together, God makes you sit together at His own right hand.

III. A theatre, or place of exhibition (See Ephesians 3:10). The holy inmates of heaven see, as it were, a dramatic movement, illustrating the manifold wisdom of God. What can this movement mean, but the history of the Church? Not its outer history of events merely, but its inmost history of spiritual experiences.

IV. A field of battle (See Ephesians 6:12). Paradise was once “the heavenlies.” The eyes of the pure angels were riveted on that spot. With interest wound up to the highest pitch, they watched the experiment of the garden. But alas! the eyes of fallen angels also were attracted thither. Satan sought and found an entrance into the heavenlies; disguised probably as an angel of light. He came; and paradise was gone. The heavenlies, however, were again set up on the earth. This world was still to have in it what might furnish a platform, on which a refuge might be provided for the weary, needing to be blessed; on which a tower might be reared, rising and raising them to the very throne of God. Holy angels look on and sympathise, and rejoice to see the manifold wisdom of God. But the heavenlies now are not, any more than the heavenlies before the Fall, secure from the invasion of the spoiler and the foe.

Application:

1. Consider what is your position in the heavenlies in respect of privilege and duty. A very high and a very holy life. Alongside of the risen Christ--seeing things from His point of view, judging by His standard, your heart as His heart. Your home with Him in God.

2. Consider your position with reference to the other spiritual intelligences who take an interest in you and in your experience. On the one hand, is it not an animating and spirit stirring thought that you live your spiritual life as forming part of that great Divine drama by means of which, through the Church, the holy principalities and powers have male known to them in the heavenlies the manifold wisdom of God? Nor is the effect of this high thought diminished by the fact that over against these benevolent and sympathising onlookers from above, coming up from below, frown the pit, a dark host is mustered by the prince of darkness; crowding all earthly scenes and circles, and invading even the heavenly places themselves. Be not unduly afraid of them. But be not ignorant of their devices. Especially remember always their double character. (R. S. Candlish, D. D.)

Spiritual blessings unrecognized

If one should give me a dish of sand, and tell me there were particles of iron in it, I might look for them with my eyes, and search for them with my clumsy fingers, and be unable to detect them; but, let me take a magnet and sweep through it, and it would at once draw to itself the most invisible particles by the mere power of attraction. The unthankful heart, like my finger in the sand, discovers no underlying blessings; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day; and as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find in every hour some spiritual blessings hitherto unrecognized; only the iron in God’s sand is gold. (Holmes.)

All spiritual blessings in Christ

How little of the sea can a child carry in his hand! As little do I take away of my great sea, the boundless love of Christ. I am pained with wondering at new opened treasures in Christ. Our best things have a worm in them; our joys, besides God, in the inner half are but woes and sorrows. Christ, Christ is that which our love and desires can sleep sweetly and rest safely upon. Christ hath made me content with a borrowed fireside, and it casteth as much heat as my own. How sweet is the wind that bloweth out of the airth where Christ is. Every day we may see some new thing in Christ: His love hath neither brim nor bottom. Oh that I had help to praise Him. (Rutherford.)

We must appropriate spiritual blessings

Going to church is like going shopping: you generally get what you go for: no more, no less. A woman will go into a store with a hundred thousand dollars worth of goods all around her, buy a paper of pins, and walk out; that is all she came for. I have seen the storehouse of God’s grace packed from cellar to ceiling, and I have seen men go in and gather up an expression of the preacher and go home. Let us take a broader view of these things. (S. Jones.)

Origin and nature of redemption

I. The origin of the great system, and all the blessings of the economy of redemption.

1. It is the office of the Father to devise the plan.

2. It is His prerogative to provide the means.

3. It is His province to select the objects of deliverance.

4. It belongs to Him to determine the benefits to be conferred, their nature and extent, and the degree in which every one, who is a saved object of the Redeemer’s work; shall enjoy the blessing of that work.

5. It is the part of the Father to receive the highest and ultimate glory of the plan.

II. The design of this part of the heavenly economy.

1. To impress on us the entirely heavenly origin of the whole system of Christianity.

2. He impress on us the fact, that the blessings of this great redemption cannot be enjoyed as the reward of human merit.

3. To show us that this scheme cannot be frustrated by human opposition or indifference. (W. Orme.)

In Christ

The union of believers and Christ is--

I. Ideal. The Divine mind in eternity made the destiny one.

II. Legal. Their debts and merits are common property.

III. Vital. The connection with Christ supplies the power of a holy life.

IV. Moral. In mind and heart, character and conduct, Christians are like Christ. (James Stalker, M. A.)

Every spiritual blessing comes through Christ

When Paul wrote this Epistle, five and twenty or thirty years had passed by since Christ appeared to him near Damascus. They had been very wonderful years. None of them had been wasted. It is evident from his Epistles that his religious thought was constantly extending its control from one region of truth to another, as well as constantly securing a firmer hold of the truth which he had already mastered; and with the growth of his religious knowledge there was a corresponding growth of his religious life.

1. He attributes to Christ the whole development of his spiritual life. The larger knowledge of God and of the ways of God, which came to him from year to year, had come from Christ; and he felt sure that whatever fresh discoveries of God might come to him would also come from Christ. Faith, hope, joy, peace, patience, courage, zeal, love for God, love for men--he had found them all in Christ.

2. He defines the blessings with which God has blessed us in Christ as “spiritual” blessings. He does not intend simply to distinguish them from material, physical, or intellectual blessings; he means to attribute them to the Spirit of God. Those who are “in Christ” receive the illumination and inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Whatever perfection of righteousness, whatever depth of peace, whatever intensity of joy, whatever fulness of Divine knowledge reveal the power of the Spirit of God in the spiritual life of man, “every spiritual blessing” has been made ours in Christ.

3. These blessings have been conferred upon us “in heavenly places” in Christ. To the apostle the visible order of human life was merely temporary, and was soon to pass away. Cities, empires, the solid earth itself, sun and stars, had for him no enduring reality. But the blessings which God has conferred upon us in Christ have their place among unseen and eternal things.

4. These blessings were ordained for the elect before the creation of the universe. The elect are those who are “in Christ”; being in Him they enter into the possession of those eternal blessings which before the foundation of the world it was God’s purpose to confer upon all Christians. (R. W. Dale, LL. D.)

Blessing through Christ

Blessings given in, and obtained by Christ, for all true believers. “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God,” etc. (Ephesians 1:1; Ephesians 1:12-13; Ephesians 1:15).

I. The Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14; John 16:7-11).

II. Remission of their sins (Ephesians 1:7).

III. Reconciliation with God (Romans 5:10).

IV. Access to God (Ephesians 2:18; 1 Peter 3:18).

V. Adoption of sons (Ephesians 1:5; John 1:12).

VI. The ministers and ordinances of the gospel (Ephesians 4:7-12; 1 Corinthians 3:1).

VII. Supplies of grace (Philippians 4:19).

VIII. The conversion of curses into blessings (Romans 5:3; 1 Peter 1:6-7; 2 Corinthians 4:1).

IX. Victory over death (1 Corinthians 15:1). X. Heaven (Romans 6:1-23). (H. Foster, M. A.)


Verses 3-19

Verse 4

Ephesians 1:4

According as He hath chosen us before the foundation of the world.

Election

I. Let us consider the cause, fountain, origin of the blessings of salvation--“according as He hath chosen as.” The blessings which we enjoy, the apostle affirms, are in consequence of God’s having chosen us, that we might become partakers of them in all their extent and fulness. To this source alone are they to be traced. How comes it that the Church of God’s “saints and faithful” thus stands distinguished from the ungodly world, in the blessings it enjoys, the favours reserved for it, and the eternal glory it shall inherit?

1. It is a matter of fact concerning which this question is raised. Whatever may be the solution of the question, or difficulties connected with it, there is no denying or concealing the fact itself, that there has been, is, and will be, a distinction among men--a difference--a separation--as respects their state and character before God, and their ultimate destiny.

2. This fact cannot be accounted for by any reference to individual or personal distinctions of character or worthiness.

3. We reach the only reasonable account of the matter when we adopt the Scriptural explanation, and ascribe “all spiritual blessing in the heavenlies” as enjoyed by God’s people to His free electing love, “according as He hath chosen us.” If you wished to explore the true source of some majestic liver, which in its course beautifies and blesses the earth, as it flows through thousands of miles to the great ocean, you would not pause at some expanding lake which it fills and empties, nor ascend the route of some acceding tributary which helps to swell its volume; but, keeping by the main channel, and leaving behind you the verdant plain and the smiling hamlet and the sleeping lake, you ascend high up the mountain steep, and there hidden in the cleft of the rock you discover the little bubbling spring that marks the origin and fountain and true rising place of that noble stream. So, taught and guided by God’s Word, when you would trace to its true fountain the stream of spiritual blessing which blesses you “in the heavenlies,” you pause not at any works or deeds of yours, you point not to any superiority natural or acquired over others, you fix not even on “faith” and “repentance” (as if these all did not need to be accounted for!), but, in all humility, yet with all thankfulness, you rest in the elective love of God, as the original and actual cause of all. You hear Paul saying, and you must echo the acknowledgment, “according as He hath chosen us,” whilst with John you gaze on that “pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.”

II. We come now to consider the second thing in our text, viz.: how this electing love of God--the cause or fountain of salvation--comes into being and operation--“hath chosen us in Him,” i.e., in Christ. A virtual or representative union was formed by God, between sinners of mankind and Christ, when He purposed their salvation. A covenant was entered into between God, of the one part, and Christ constituted the head of the Church and its representative, of the other part. In terms of this covenant Christ was to do the will of God; i.e., fulfil the requirements of law, suffer its penalty and perform its duties, in room and stead of His people; and God, on His part, was to confer on them His Spirit, work holiness in their natures, and at last receive them into eternal mansions.

III. In the third place we are here taught when the election took place, viz., “before the foundation of the world.” This surely must be allowed to carry us far back, beyond the operation of human merit or agency.

1. There is no room, then, for chance, uncertainty, or hazard. God’s plans are complete, and His purposes definite. Doubtless He has chosen, on the whole, the greatest good of the universe as His object; and, in “the election unto grace,” only displays a part of His glorious and all-comprehending plan.

2. Again, we are taught in this not only God’s wisdom, but also His sovereignty. This, at least, is a precious truth--that the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth. What comfort, otherwise, would there be in contemplating a scene where sin abounds and agents of darkness are abroad on the earth?

IV. This suggests to us the fourth topic in our text, viz., why, or for what end God hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world--“that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.” It is an old saying: “God does not find, but makes men holy.” It is evident, indeed, that none are chosen because they are holy or blameless, but some are chosen in order that they may become so. (W. Alves, M. A.)

The doctrine of election

I. The spiritual blessing.

1. The term election is sometimes used for that election which is made in temporary execution of God’s purpose;

2. But here it means that choice which God made with Himself from all eternity. From this flow all the blessings we receive, even as the body and boughs and branches of the tree issue from the root. What a cause for thankfulness is here!

II. The persons. Those who have true faith and holiness. As we may know faith, so we may know election. If we see in any a faith unfeigned and true endeavour after holiness, we may charitably judge that such are elected.

III. The order of election.

1. Christ, the Head.

2. From Christ it descends to us His members.

IV. The time. Before all worlds (2 Timothy 1:9; John 17:24).

V. The end.

1. God has of grace chosen us to the supernatural life.

2. He has not only chosen us to this supernatural life, but to the perfection of it.

3. He has called us to this life, that we may live forever in His presence. (Paul Bayne.)

God’s elective grace

It would be a narrow and superficial view of these words to suppose them to refer only to the enjoyment of external privilege, or to imagine that they are meant to level Jewish pride, and that they describe simply the choice of the Gentiles to religious blessings. The purpose of the election is, that its objects should be holy, an end that cannot fail, for they are in Christ, and “in Him they are complete.” Yet the sovereign love of God is strikingly manifested even in the bestowment of external advantage. Ephesus enjoyed what many a city in Asia Minor wanted. The motive that took Paul to Ephesus, and the wind that sped the bark which carried him, were alike of God’s creation. It was not because God chanced to look down from His high throne, and saw the Ephesians bowing at the shrine of Diana, and worshipping “the image that fell from Jupiter,” that His heart was moved, and He resolved to give them the gospel. Nor was it because its citizens had a deeper relish for virtue and peace than masses of the population around them, that He sent among them the grace of His Spirit. “He is of one mind, and who can turn Him?” Every purpose is eternal, and awaits an evolution in the fulness of the time, which is neither antedated nor postponed. The same difficulties are involved in this choice to the external blessing, as are found in the election of men to personal salvation. The whole procedure lies in the domain of pure sovereignty, and there can therefore be no partiality where none have any claim. The choice of Abraham is the great fact which explains and gives name to the doctrine. Why then should the race of Shem be selected to the exclusion of Ham and Japheth? Why of all the families in Shem should that of Terah be chosen? and why of all the members of Terah’s house should the individual Abraham be marked out, and set apart by God to be the father of a new race? As well impugn the fact as attempt to upset the doctrine. Providence presents similar views of the Divine procedure. One is born in Europe with a fair face, and becomes enlightened and happy; another is born in Africa with a sable countenance, and is doomed to slavery and wretchedness. One has his birth from Christian parents, and is trained in virtue from his earlier years; another has but a heritage of shame from his father, and the shadow of the gallows looms over his cradle. One is an heir of genius; another, with some malformation of brain, is an idiot. Some, under the enjoyment of Christian privilege, live and die unimpressed; others, with but scanty opportunities, believe, and grow eminent in piety. Does not more seem really to be done by God externally for the conversion of others who live and die in impenitence, than for many who believe and are saved? And yet the Divine prescience and predestination are not incompatible with human responsibility. Man is free, perfectly free, for his moral nature is never strained or violated. Foreknowledge, which is only another phase of electing love, no more changes the nature of a future incident, than after knowledge can affect an historical fact. God’s grace fits men for heaven, but men by unbelief prepare themselves for hell. It is not man’s non-election, but his continued sin, that leads to his eternal ruin. Action is not impeded by the certainty of the Divine foreknowledge, he who believes that God has appointed the hour of his death is not fettered by such a faith in the earnest use of every means to prolong his life. And God does not act arbitrarily or capriciously. He has the best of reasons for His procedure, though He does not choose to disclose them to us. (John Eadie, D. D.)

God the author of the plan of salvation

Christians have no grounds for self-felicitation in their possession of holiness and hope, as if with their own hand they had inscribed their names in the Book of Life. Their possession of “all spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” is not self-originated. Its one author is God, and he has conferred it in harmony with His eternal purpose regarding them. His is all the work, and His is all the glory. And therefore the apostle glories in this eternal election. It is cause of deep and prolonged thankfulness, not of gloom, distrust, or perplexity. The very eternity of design clothes the plan of salvation with a peculiar nobleness. It has its origin in an eternity behind us, and its consummation in an eternity before us. Kindness, the result of momentary impulse, has not and cannot have such claim to gratitude, as a beneficence which is the fruit of a matured and predetermined arrangement. The grace which springs from eternal choice must command the deepest homage of our nature. (John Eadie, D. D.)

Salvation an eternal provision for human need

The eternity of the plan suggests another thought. It is this--salvation is an original thought and resolution it is no novel expedient struck out in the fertility of Divine ingenuity, after God’s first purpose in regard to man had failed through man’s apostasy. It is no afterthought, but the embodiment of a design which, foreseeing our ruin, had made preparation for it. (John Eadie, D. D.)

The object of the Divine election

In the words “That we should be holy and without blame before Him,” we have the object of the Divine election declared, and the cooperation of the elect implied, by the inseparable connection of holiness with election. There is an instructive parallel in Colossians 1:22, “He hath reconciled you in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy and unblamable, and unreprovable in His sight.” The word “without blame,” or “unblamable,” is properly without blemish; and the word “unreprovable” more nearly corresponds to our idea of one unblamable--i.e., one against whom no charge can be brought. Here God is said to have “chosen” us, in the other passage to have “presented” us (comp. the sacrificial use of the word in Romans 12:1), in Christ, to be “holy and without blemish.” It seems clear that the words refer not to justification in Christ, but to sanctification in Him. They express the positive and negative aspects of holiness; the positive in the spirit of purity, the negative in the absence of spot or blemish. The key to their interpretation is to be found in the idea of Romans 8:29, “whom He did foreknow, He did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son.” The word “without blame” is applied to our Lord (in Hebrews 9:14; 1 Peter 1:19) as a lamb “without blemish.” To Him alone it applies perfectly; to us, in proportion to that conformity to His image. The words “before Him” refer us to God’s unerring judgment as contrasted with the judgment of men, and even our own judgment on ourselves (comp. 1 Corinthians 4:3-4; 1 John 3:20-21) (A. Barry, D. D.)

The antiquity of our final humanity

The word foundation. ( καταβολή) suggests a descent, or letting down. But since we were chosen m Christ “before the foundation of the world,” let us joy with reverence over the priority of our original nature, and not confound ourselves with any of the products of time. We are clothed upon with temporal nature, but we are not children of time. We are fallen into time, but we are from eternity. From of old, God loved us with an everlasting love. There is nothing in the world that represents to us either what we were, or what we shall be. Long before the geological eras began, long before the great chaotic age, and long before that first of all the sad changes, namely, the angel fall, God beheld His final human race, perfect in His Son. Whatever we have become through the two great falls, in heaven, and in earth, in Christ Jesus we are the holy children of eternity. Our right home is in our Father’s house, amid the first-born eternal glories. It is not strange, therefore, that there should be a spirit in us which refuses to rest in anything under the sun, as our final condition. That which was “elect and precious,” before the foundation of the world, lingers in us. (John Pulsford.)

Election and holiness

God elected us as well to the means as to the end. Note this. For as they (in Acts 27:31) could not come safe to land if any left the ship, so neither can men come to heaven but by holiness. (John Trapp.)

Predestination to holiness

It would be a poor proof that I were on my voyage to India, that with glowing eloquence and thrilling poetry, I could discourse on the palm groves and spice isles of the East. Am I on the waters? Is the sail hoisted to the wind? and does the land of my birth look blue and faint in the distance? The doctrine of election may have done harm to many, but only because they have fancied themselves elected to the end, and have forgotten that those whom Scripture calls elected are elected to the means. The Bible never speaks of men as elected to be saved from the shipwreck, but only as elected to tighten the ropes and hoist the sails and stand at the rudder. Let a man search faithfully: let him see that when Scripture describes Christians as elected, it is as elected to faith, as elected to sanctification, as elected to, obedience; and the doctrine of election will be nothing but a stimulus to effort. It will not act as a soporific. I shall cut away the boat, and let drive all human devices, and gird myself, amid the fierceness of the tempest, to steer the shattered vessel into port. (H. Melvill, B. D.)

Of election to everlasting life

I. Our first business is, to show what election is. It is that decree of God whereby some men are chosen out from among the rest of mankind, and appointed to obtain eternal life by Jesus Christ, flowing from the mere good pleasure of God; as appears from the text. So the elect are they whom God has chosen to everlasting life (Acts 13:48).

II. I proceed to show who are elected. Who they are in particular, God only knows; but in general we say, that it is not all men, but some only. For where all are taken, there is no choice made.

III. The next head is to shew what they are chosen to.

1. They are chosen to be partakers of everlasting life. Hence the scripture speaks of some being “ordained to eternal life” (Acts 13:48), and of “appointing them to obtain salvation” (1 Thessalonians 5:9), God appoints some to be rich, great, and honourable, some to be low and mean in the world: but electing love appoints those on whom it falls to be saved from sin, and all the ruins of the fall; its great view is to eternal glory in heaven.

2. They are chosen also to grace as the mean, as well as to glory as the end. God’s predestinating them to eternal blessedness includes both, as in the text; and it further appears from 2 Thessalonians 2:13. Hence faith is held out as a certain consequent of election (Acts 13:48). “As many as were ordained unto eternal life, believed.” The man who intends to dwell in a house yet unbuilt, intends also the means by which it may be made a fit habitation. And therefore there is no ground from the decree of election to slight the means of salvation.

IV. Let us consider the properties of election.

1. It is altogether free, without any moving cause, but God’s mere good pleasure. No reason can be found for this but only in the bosom of God.

2. Election is eternal. They are elected from all eternity (Ephesians 1:4), “chosen before the foundation of the world;” (2 Timothy 1:9). All God’s decrees are eternal (Ephesians 1:11). Because God is eternal, His purposes must be of equal duration with His existence.

3. It is particular and definite.

4. It is secret, and cannot be known till God is pleased to discover it.

V. The next thing is to show, that all the elect, and they only, are in time brought out of a state of sin and misery into a state of salvation.

1. All the elect are redeemed by Christ (John 10:15). None other but the elect are brought into a state of salvation; none but they are redeemed, sanctified, and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ (John 17:9).

VI. I come to show by whom the elect are saved. It is by Christ the Redeemer. Hence the apostle says (Titus 3:4-6).

1. Before the elect could be delivered from that state of sin and misery into which they had brought themselves, a valuable satisfaction behoved to be given to the justice of God for the injury done by sin. It is evident from Scripture that God stood upon full satisfaction, and would not remit one sin without it. Several things plead strongly for this: As,

2. As satisfaction to justice was necessary, and that which God insisted upon, so the elect could not give it themselves, neither was there any creature in heaven or earth that could do it for them (Isaiah 63:5). This is the desperate and forlorn condition of the elect by nature as well as others. God pitched upon Christ in His infinite grace and wisdom as the fittest person for managing this grand design.

4. Christ accepted the office of a Redeemer, and engaged to make His soul an offering for sin. He cheerfully undertook this work in that eternal transaction that was between the Father and Him.

5. Christ satisfied offended justice in the room of the elect, and purchased eternal redemption for them. “He became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:8). Thus the elect are saved by the Lord Jesus Christ.

I shall conclude all with a few inferences.

1. Behold here the freedom and glory of sovereign grace, which is the sole cause why God did not leave all mankind to perish in the state of sin and misery, as He did the fallen angels.

2. This doctrine should stop men’s murmurings, and silence all their pleadings with or against God.

3. This is ground of humility and admiration to the elect of God, and shows them to what they owe the difference that is between them and others, even to free grace. (T. Boston, D. D.)

On election

I. State the doctrine itself. The word rendered “predestinated” denotes simply predetermined, or foreordained (See Acts 4:27-28),

1. It proceeds on the assumption of the fact that man is in a state of guilt, condemnation, and ruin: that, in himself considered, he is without any claim on the Divine favour, without help and without hope.

2. In maintaining the doctrine under consideration, it is assumed that a sufficient, complete, and glorious redemption has been accomplished and revealed.

3. This salvation is proclaimed to all men, without restriction; and all are freely invited to receive its blessings. Is not the blessed God sincere, in all the proffers of His mercy? Can there be any secret counsels at variance, in reality, with the overtures of His grace?

4. All men, if left to themselves, disregard the overtures of mercy, and neglect the great salvation.

5. That grace which God now communicates to the hearts of men, He has resolved and decreed, from all eternity, to communicate.

II. Remove misconceptions. Let it be observed--

1. That the leading object of our present inquiry regards not an abstract truth, involved in metaphysical obscurity, but a matter of fact, to be determined by scriptural testimony.

2. That the proof of the fact and of the doctrine of election, does not rest on a few insulated texts of Scripture. A minister of the gospel, lately deceased, who was distinguished by no common share of mental energy, discovered, on one occasion, that he had armed against himself the strongest prejudices of a very intelligent hearer, by preaching the doctrine of election. In his private writings he thus records the conversation which ensued:--“I told her that I had no choice; the doctrine was not mine; nor did the evidence rest on the words ‘elect and election.’ I advised her to read the fifth and sixth chapters of the Gospel of John, in which the word election does not once occur, but which are full of the doctrine itself. She followed my advice, and in a few days she was confirmed in the belief of this truth. I then advised her to read the seventeenth chapter of John; and she acknowledged, that it was full of the same truth. I asked her, to what conclusion her experience led her on the subject;--whether she had chosen Christ as the Saviour of her soul? ‘Yes,’ she exclaimed. ‘And do you think He has chosen you?’ ‘Yes, I do,’ she replied. ‘If you chose Him first,’ I rejoined, ‘you made yourself to differ, and salvation is of works: if the Divine choice was first, your choice of Christ was the effect of it, and salvation is of grace.’ ‘This,’ she added, ‘is the fact.’ ‘Then,’ I concluded, ‘fact, matter of fact, establishes the doctrine of election.’ Her ‘peace now flowed like a river, bearing all abjections before it, and her blessedness was as the waves of the sea.’”

3. The doctrine does not in the least restrict the free invitation of the gospel. God has given these invitations in full sincerity. He has given them on the finished and accepted redemption of His Beloved Son. The only barrier between the sinner and salvation is his cherished unbelief.

4. This doctrine does not in the slightest degree affect man’s obligation to repent and to believe the gospel. Man’s responsibility arises out of his rational and moral nature, and his relation to the God that made him. He does net cease to be accountable, because he has made himself sinful; for were this the case, a man would only have to become a depraved and abandoned transgressor, in order to exonerate himself from all further obligation to obey the Author of his existence.

5. This fact--that there is a Divine election--does not create an obstacle to the salvation of any human being. From the remarks already made, it is apparent, that if any man perish, he must perish in consequence of his own unbelief. In the investigation of the Word of God, I discover no traces of any decree involving an appointment to wrath irrespective of guilt. Throughout the Bible, the perdition of the soul is ascribed, not to God’s decree, but to man’s transgression. No human being will be condemned at the last day, on the ground of not being included in the election of grace.

6. This doctrine, rightly understood, has no tendency unfavourable to the interests of practical religion.

III. The effects which a correct view and a cordial reception of this doctrine are calculated to produce on the mind and heart of the believer.

1. The belief of this doctrine is calculated to extend and to elevate our views of the character of God.

2. This doctrine presents the most vivid exhibition of the certainty of the final salvation of all who truly believe in the Divine Redeemer.

3. This doctrine is adapted to produce the deepest humility. Every truth associated with this doctrine is a humbling truth. We are reminded, at every step of our researches, of some trait in our own character, or in the character of the blessed God, which is calculated to humble the heart. We are reminded, that we are, by nature, children of wrath--that by unmerited grace alone we can be saved. “Where is boasting then? It is excluded; that no flesh should glory in His presence; that according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”

4. Finally, The subject under consideration is designed and adapted to call forth the most grateful and adoring praise. (H. F. Burder, D. D.)

Good men the subjects of Divine thoughts from all eternity

Every true Christian, then, as a member of Christ’s body, is thus an elect and predestinated person, and as such has been, along with Christ Himself--the Head of that body--an object of thought to the Almighty Lord of Life during the eternity bygone. But now what an awful dignity is thus seen at once to gather around the existence of a predestinated soul, around one whose appearance and character are both the subject and result of the never commenced meditations and resolves of the Omniscient and Eternal Mind. We look, if at all given to such reflections, with a feeling of profound interest upon a stone, which has been agitated far ages on the sunken floor of the ocean, and which is at length cast up by the sounding sea, rounded by the attrition of the sea bottom, and by the currents of unnumbered centuries--an agate or carnelian, that was being rolled and polished by the billows before the old empires of antiquity were founded, or before the deluge, or before the creation of man. We gaze awestruck upon these everlasting hills, whose summits were standing above the universal waters before some of the other continents were made, and whose stratified contents, rich with the fossils of successive worlds, and the deep-lying beds of molten and crystallized porphyry and granite below them, indicate an era of upheaval that is lost in the mists and twilights of remotest eld. But what are such feelings of awe and wonder at such immeasurable antiquity, compared with those which fill the soul when we look upon a Person older than all geological chronology, older than the stars, whose “goings forth have been from everlasting.” On Christ, whose countenance, whose aspect, “marred more than any man’s,” whose history, instinct with miracles, whose words, full of grace and truth, were the manifestations of a Divine purpose as ancient in the darkness, that all the works of the visible universe--rock systems and the deepest foundations of the mountains, and constellations that have already shone through cycles which would defy even archangelic arithmetic to measure, are comparatively of yesterday. “Before Abraham was, I am.” Before the universe was, I was in the bosom of the Infinite. And all good men were chosen in Him. The names of all who believe in God were written “before the foundation of the world,” in the Lamb’s Book of Life. They have from eternity been there recorded by Divine love as members of Christ--of His Body, of His flesh, and of His bones. Every Christian has thus been, in ideal vision, a subject of blissful Divine thought from before all worlds. (E. White.)

The saving purpose of God in earthly realization

I. Its spiritual character (verses 3, 4).

1. Bestowing spiritual gifts.

2. Contemplating a moral change in its objects. It is not because they are already better than other men that believers are chosen, but in order that they may become so.

II. Its predetermining influence. (verses 4, 5, 9-11).

1. It works from afar. Through eternity and time--“from before the foundation of the world.”

2. Bestowing provisional advantage. It does not appear that by the “adoption” here spoken of, final salvation is implied, but rather that the Gentiles being “brought nigh” through the blood of Christ, are put in the way of being saved. It is well for us to consider the limits as well as the vastness of spiritual privilege.

3. Ordaining the means of salvation. “In Christ.”

III. Its cyclic completeness (verses 4-14).

1. Engaging successively the several Persons of the Blessed Trinity. In the progress of revelation and the history of the Church there seem to be discernible an age of the Father, an age of the Son, and an age of the Holy Ghost.

2. Perfecting human salvation. There are indicated three stages of the process of salvation, viz., election, justification through the blood of Christ, and, finally, sanctification by the Spirit. The cycle of redemption, as evolved in this passage, recalls that of Romans 8:28-30.

3. Consummating the order of the universe. In Christ all things are “summed up,” i.e., He is the Head and Representative of time, creation, humanity, etc. They gather about Him as their true Centre and Lord.

IV. Its resultant glory (verses 6, 12, 14). (A. F. Muir, M. A.)

The electing love of God

I. As expressive of the Divine character. Paul labours by variety and accumulation of phrases to show that in its entire manifestation it is of God and not of man. He calls attention to--

1. Its absoluteness. It is “according to the good pleasure of His will,” i.e., an absolutely free impulse and act. No cause external to the Divine Being can be discovered to account for it.

2. Its sublime consistency and harmony.

II. As affecting human destiny.

1. It reveals itself in a gracious act, viz., the choice or adoption of men as its objects.

2. It sets before itself a grand moral aim.

3. It exerts a transforming power.

III. As evoking grateful adoration (verse 6). The objects of saving grace realizing the benefits it confers,

1. Bless God with their lips.

2. Glorify Him in their lives. (A. F. Muir, M. A.)

God’s purpose in election

What was God driving at in His electing some out of the lump of mankind? Was it only their impunity He desired, that while others were left to swim in torment and misery, they should only be exempted from that infelicity? No, sure; the apostle will tell us more. “He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy.” Mark, not because He foresaw that they would be of themselves holy, but that they should be holy; this was that God resolved He would make them to be. As if some curious workman, seeing a forest growing upon his own ground of trees (all alike, not one better than another), should mark some above all the rest, and set them apart in his thoughts, as resolving to make some rare pieces of workmanship of them. Thus God chose some out of the lump of mankind, whom He set apart for this purpose, to carve His own image upon them, which consists in righteousness and true holiness; a piece of such rare workmanship which, when God hath intended, and shall show it to men and angels, will appear to exceed the fabric of heaven and earth itself. (W. Gurnall.)

Election

1. The elector is the Father, to whom it belongs to originate all things. The purpose of eternal love flows directly from the Divine mind, as its heavenly source (Romans 8:29; 2 Thessalonians 2:13)

2. The person in whom the election is made is the Son. We are chosen in Him as the Divine Mediator, and predestinated Election-Head, in whom, by means of our union with Him, we find a supply for all our wants, strength for our weakness, joy for our sorrow, light for our darkness, and eternal life for our all-sufficient portion at last.

3. As to the date of this election; it is before the foundation of the world (comp. Matthew 13:35, John 17:4, Luke 11:50, Matthew 14:34, 1 Peter 1:20). This is the same as the expression, “Before the ages or worlds” (1 Corinthians 2:7; comp. Ephesians 3:9, Colossians 1:26, 2 Timothy 1:9, and Romans 16:25). This is the ancient love of God to His people of which the Scriptures are so full, and on which the believing soul delights to dwell. His love is no impulsive feeling, varying with the changes of the creature, but the steady, irreversible purpose of His grace, based on the life and death, the doing and dying of the Mediator.

4. The purpose of this election is very clearly stated in one passage--“That we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.” Holy means separated, consecrated, devoted to Gad. He would have a loving, devoted, holy, people, and for this end He elects them. (W. Graham, D. D.)

God’s choice and desire

I. Let us observe the first outflow of these heavenly blessings. The fountain of eternal love burst forth in our election--“According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world.” Consider these words one by one.

1. The first is, “He hath chosen:” God has a will and a choice in the matter of salvation. Is man’s will to be deified? Is the whole result of the scheme of salvation to depend upon the creature’s choice? God forbid.

2. Carefully note that election shapes everything: the Father has blessed us with all spiritual blessings, “According as He hath chosen us in Christ.” All the grace of earth and the glory of heaven come to us in accordance with the eternal choice. There is not a single boon that comes from the blessed hand of the Divine Redeemer but is stamped with the mark of God’s electing love. We were chosen to each mercy, and each mercy was appointed for us.

3. The next word is, “He hath chosen us.” Herein is grace indeed. What could there be in us that the Lord should choose us? Some of us feel ourselves the most unworthy of the unworthy, and we can see no trace of a reason for our being chosen. So far from being choice men in our own esteem, we feel ourselves by nature to be the very reverse. But if God has chosen us, then let our hearts love Him, our lips extol Him, our hands serve Him, our whole lives adore Him.

4. Then we are told, he has chosen us in Christ Jesus. He first chose Christ as the head, and then looked through Christ upon us, and chose us to be members of Christ’s mystical body.

5. The time when this choice was made--“Before the foundation of the world,” the earliest conceivable period. The choice is no sudden act.

II. The designed result of all this blessing.

1. It is God’s eternal design that His people should be holy. When you grow in grace, and faith, and hope, and joy, all that growth is towards holiness. There is something practical in every boon that comes from the Father’s hand, and you should pray to Him that you may by each one conquer sin, advance in virtue and perfect holiness in His fear. The ultimate end of election is the praise of the glory of Divine grace, but the immediate and intermediate end is the personal sanctification of the chosen.

2. The Father chose us to Himself that we might be without blame before Him in love. He would have us blameless, so that no man can justly find fault with us; and harmless, so that our lives may injure none, but bless all.

3. But notice where and what kind of holiness this is: holy and blameless before Him. It would be something to be perfect before the eyes of men who are so ready to criticize us; but to be blameless before Him who reads our thoughts and sees our every failure in a moment--this is an attainment of a far higher order. To conclude, we are to be holy and blameless before Him in love. Love is the anointing oil which is to be poured on all the Lord’s priests; when he has robed them in their spotless garments, they shall partake of the unction of love. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

God’s election of men in Jesus Christ

I. That God, before He made the world, chose some persons of His own free grace to become His children, or to be made holy and happy.

1. There is a manifest difference between the children of men in this world.

2. This difference between men, or this distinction of the righteous from the wicked, is not ascribed in Scripture, originally and supremely, to the will and power of man, as the cause of it, but to the will and power of God, and to His Spirit working in them.

3. The distinction that is made by this work of God in the heart of men, is attributed in Scripture, not to any merit in man, which God foresaw, but to the free grace of God toward His people, and His special choice or election of them, to be partakers of these blessings.

4. This choice of persons to sanctification and salvation by the grace on God is represented in Scripture, as before the foundation of the world, or from eternity.

II. That God from the beginning appointed His Son Jesus Christ to be the medium of exercising all this grace, and gave His chosen people to the care of His Son, to make them partakers of these blessings.

1. Let us consider what it was that Christ undertook, as the chosen Saviour of His people (John 1:18; John 17:5; John 16:28; Philippians 2:7; Hebrews 2:14; Galatians 4:4; Romans 8:3; Ephesians 5:30).

2. Let us take a brief survey of the articles of this covenant on God the Father’s side. Whatsoever powers, or honours, or employments He bestowed on His Son, we have reason to suppose it was in pursuance of this original covenant of grace and salvation. First then, we may justly conclude, that God engaged to employ Him in the work of creation, as a foundation of His future kingdom among men; by Him God made angels, and they shall be His ministering Spirits, for the men who shall be heirs of his salvation; by Him God created mankind, and He shall be Lord of them all; by Him the Blessed God made His own people, and He shall save them. Again, We may suppose it was agreed by the Father, that He should be the King of Israel, which was the visible Church of God, as a type of His kingdom, and the government of His invisible Church; that He should fix His dwelling in a cloud of glory, in His holy hill of Sion (Psalms 2:6-7), and should govern the Jewish nation by judges, or priests, or kings, as His deputies, till He Himself should appear in the flesh. God the Father undertook also to furnish Him with everything necessary for His appearance and His ministry here upon earth, to prepare a body for Him (Hebrews 10:5), to give Him the Spirit without measure (John 3:34; Isaiah 11:2), to bear Him up through all His sufferings, to accept His sacrifice and atonement for sin, to raise Him up from the dead, to exalt Him not only to the former glory which He had with Him before the world was, which He asks for as a matter of agreement (John 17:4-5), but to honour Him at His right hand with superior powers.

1. Since we are chosen to be holy, as well as happy, we may search and find out our election by our sanctification, and make it sure and evident.

2. Let those who by a sincere search have found the blessed marks and evidences of their election in Christ Jesus take the comfort of it, rejoice in it, and walk worthy of so Divine a privilege. See that you keep your evidences of grace ever clear and bright by holy watchfulness, that ye may have a strong defence in every hour of temptation.

In conclusion:

1. I infer that there are some doctrines wherein the reason of man finds many difficulties, and which the folly of man would abuse to unhappy purposes, which yet are plain and express truths asserted in the Word of God. Among these, we place the great doctrine of the election of sinners in Christ to be made holy and happy.

2. However this doctrine may be opposed by the reasonings of men, and even ridiculed by a bold jest, yet, if it then appear to be a Divine truth, as the Scriptures now seem to teach us, the blessed God will not be ashamed of it in the last great day; then shall He unfold all the scheme of His original counsels, and spread abroad His transactions towards mankind, before the face of all His intelligent creatures. I cannot think, that any of the cavils of wit against this doctrine will stand before the light of the great tribunal.

3. The whole chain and current of our salvation, from the beginning to the end, arises and proceeds all the way from the free grace of God, through the mediation of His Son Jesus Christ. God and His Son must have the glory, and pride must be hid from man forever. (Dr. Watts.)


Verse 5

Ephesians 1:5

Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will.

The predestination of believers

I. The benefit itself. “Having predestinated.”

1. God first loves us to life before the means bringing us to life are decreed.

2. God has not only chosen some, but ordained effectual means to bring them to the end to which they are chosen.

II. The persons who are predestinated. Those who have believed and are sanctified--of them we may say that they have been predestinated, and shall be glorified. A chain of four links, two of which are kept with God in heaven, and two let down to earth; this chain is so coupled, that whoever are within these mid]inks are within the two others also. How precious then is this faith which purifies the heart, and enables us even to read our names in God’s register of life.

III. The thing to which God has predestinated us. “Unto the adoption of children.”

1. The dignity of being sons of God.

2. The inheritance of light, or a Divine nature.

3. All the glory we look for in heaven is included.

IV. The cause. “Through Jesus Christ.”

V. The manner. “To Himself,” i.e., “according to the good pleasure of His will.”

1. Sending His Word.

2. Working by it with His Spirit.

VI. The end. “To the praise of the glory of His grace.” (Paul Bayne.)

Adoption

If the thing itself be right, it must be right that God intended to do the thing; if you find no fault with facts, as you see them in providence, you have no ground to complain of decrees as you find them in predestination, for the decrees and the facts are just the counterparts one of the other. I cannot see, if the fact itself is agreeable, why the decree should be objectionable. I can see no reason why you should find fault with God’s foreordination, if you do not find fault with what does actually happen as the effect of it. Let a man but agree to acknowledge an act of providence, and I want to know how he can, except he runs in the very teeth of providence, find any fault with the predestination or intention that God made concerning that providence. Will you blame me for preaching this morning? Suppose you answer, No. Then can you blame me that I formed a resolution last night that I would preach? Will you blame me for preaching on this particular subject? Do, if you please, then, and find me guilty for intending to do so; but if you say I am perfectly right in selecting such a subject, how can you say I was not perfectly right in intending to preach upon it? Assuredly you cannot find fault with God’s predestination, if you do not find fault with the effects that immediately spring from it. Now, we are taught in Scripture, I affirm again, that all things that God choseth to do in time were most certainly intended by Him to be done in eternity, and He predestined such things should be done. If I am called, I believe God intended before all worlds that I should be called; if in His mercy He has regenerated me, I believe that from all eternity He intended to regenerate me; and if, in His loving kindness, He shall at last perfect me and carry me to heaven, I believe it always was His intention to do so. If you cannot find fault with the thing itself that God does, in the name of reason, common sense, and Scripture, how dare you find fault with God’s intention to do it?

I. Adoption--the grace of it. No man can ever have a right in himself to become adopted. If a king should adopt any into his family, it would likely be the son of one of his lords--at any rate, some child of respectable parentage; he would scarce take the son of some common felon, or some gipsy child, to adopt him into his family; but God, in this case, has taken the very worst to be His children. The saints of God all confess that they are the last persons they should ever have dreamed He would have chosen. Again, let us think not only of our original lineage, but of our personal character. He who knows himself will never think that he had much to recommend him to God. In other cases of adoption there usually is some recommendation. A man, when he adopts a child, sometimes is moved thereto by its extraordinary beauty, or at other times by its intelligent manners and winning disposition. But no; He found a rebellious child, a filthy, frightful, ugly child; He took it to His bosom. I was passing lately by the seat of a nobleman, and someone in the railway carriage observed that he had no children, and he would give any price in the world if he could find someone who would renounce all claim to any son he might have, and the child was never to speak to his parents any more, nor to be acknowledged, and this lord would adopt him as his son, and leave him the whole of his estates, but that he had found great difficulty in procuring any parents who would forswear their relationship, and entirely give up their child. Whether this was correct or not, I cannot tell; but certainly this was not the case with God. His only-begotten and well-beloved Son was quite enough for Him; and, if He had needed a family, there were the angels, and His own omnipotence was adequate enough to have created a race of beings far superior to us; He stood in no need whatever of any to be His darlings. It was then, an act of simple, pure, gratuitous grace, and of nothing else, because He will have mercy on whom He will have mercy, and because He delights to show the marvellous character of His condescension.

II. The privileges which come to us through adoption.

1. We are taken out of the family of Satan. The prince of this world has no more claim upon us.

2. We have God’s name put upon us.

3. We have the spirit as well as the name of children.

4. Access to the throne.

5. We are pitied by God. He pities thee, and that pity of God is one of the comforts that flow into thine heart by thine adoption.

6. In the next place, He protects thee. No father will allow his son to die without making some attempt to resist the adversary who would slay him, and God will never allow His children to perish while His omnipotence is able to guard them.

7. Once again, there is provision as well as protection. Every father will take care to the utmost of his ability to provide for his children.

8. And then you shall likewise have education. God will educate all His children till He makes them perfect men in Christ Jesus.

9. There is one thing perhaps you sometimes forget, which you are sure to have in the course of discipline if you are God’s sons, and that is, God’s rod.

10. Lastly, so sure as we are the children of God by adoption, we must inherit the promise that pertains to it--“If children, then heirs, heirs of God, and joint heirs with Jesus Christ.” “If we suffer with Him, we shall also be glorified together.”

III. There are some duties which are connected with adoption. When the believer is adopted into the Lord’s family, there are many relationships which are broken off. The relationship with old Adam and the law ceases at once; but then he is under a new law, the law of grace--under new rules, and under a new covenant. And now I beg to admonish you of duties, children of God. It is this--if God be thy father, and thou art His son, thou art bound to trust Him. Oh! if He were only thy Master, and thou ever so poor a servant, thou wouldst be bound to trust Him. But, when thou knowest that He is thy Father, wilt thou ever doubt Him? (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Adoption and its privileges

After the battle of Austerlitz, Napoleon immediately adopted all the children of the soldiers who had fallen. They were supported and educated by the State, and, as belonging to the family of the emperor, they were permitted to attach the name of Napoleon to their own.

Adoption confers honour

It was at Vienna, in the year 1805, that Haydn, then seventy-three years of age, first met Cherubini, who, though not a young man, still must have appeared so to the veteran composer, being thirty years his junior, and not having then composed many of those works which have since made his name so famous. Bat the very fact of his own seniority was made use of by the old man to utter one of the most graceful compliments which could have been spoken for the encouragement of a younger worker. Handing to Cherubini one of his latest compositions, Haydn said, “Permit me to style myself your musical father, and to call you my son,” words which made such an impression on Cherubini that he could not keep back the tears when he parted with the aged Haydn.

Election and adoption into God’s family

I. God chose and predestined these ephesian Christians before the foundation of the world.

1. We must not so conceive of God’s election, and the influence of His grace, as to set aside our free agency and final accountableness.

2. Nor must we so explain away God’s sovereignty and grace as to exalt man to a state of independence.

II. They were chosen to be holy and without blame, before Him, in love. Holiness consists in the conformity of the soul to the Divine nature and will, and is opposed to all moral evil. In fallen creatures it begins in the renovation of the mind after the image of God. Love is a main branch of holiness.

III. The adoption to which believers are predestinated.

1. Adoption implies a state of freedom, in opposition to bondage.

2. Adoption brings us under the peculiar care of God’s providence.

3. Adoption includes a title to a glorious resurrection from the dead, and to an eternal inheritance in the heavens.

IV. All spiritual blessings are derived to us through Jesus Christ.

V. The season of God’s choosing believers in Christ, and predestinating them to adoption, is the good pleasure of His will. The original plan of salvation is from Him, not from us. The gospel is a Divine gift, not a human discovery; and our being in circumstances to enjoy it is not the effect of our previous choice, but of God’s sovereign goodness.

VI. The great purpose for which God has chosen and called us is the praise of the glory of His grace. Goodness is the glory of the Divine character; grace is the glory of the Divine goodness; the plan of salvation for sinners by Jesus Christ is the glory of Divine grace. (J. Lathrop, D. D.)

Regeneration and sonship in Christ

I. Christ is the unique son of God. From what we know of our Lord as He lived among men, nothing so perfectly represents the impression which His character, spirit, and history produce upon us as the title which describes Him as the Son of God. Other men had been God’s servants; He, too, was “born under the law;” but to speak of Him as a servant does not tell half the truth. He is a servant, and something more. There is an ease, a freedom, a grace about His doing of the will of God, which can belong only to a Son. About the Father’s love for Him He has never any doubt; and there is no sign that His perfect faith is the result of discipline, or that it had ever been less secure and tranquil than it was in the maturity of His strength. When He speaks of the glory which is to come to Him after His death and resurrection, He is still a Son anticipating the honour to which the Father has always destined Him, and which indeed had always been His.

II. Christians are the adopted sons of God. If we are “in Christ” we, according to God’s eternal purpose, have become God’s sons. The eternal relationship between Christ and the Father cannot belong to us; but all who are one with Christ share the blessedness, the security, and the honour of that relationship; and the life of Christ, which has its eternal fountains in the life of God, is theirs.

III. Christians are made Sons of God by a new and supernatural birth. Regeneration is sometimes described as though it were merely a change in a man’s principles of conduct, character, taste, habits. If so, we should have to speak of a man as being more or less regenerate according to the extent of his moral reformation, which would be contrary to the idiom of New Testament thought. The simplest and most obvious account of regeneration is the truest. When a man is regenerated he receives a new life, and receives it from God. A higher nature comes to him than that which he inherited from his human parents; he is “begotten of God,” “born of the Spirit.”

IV. The incarnation of Christ effects our adoption and regeneration. The capacity for receiving the Divine life is native to us, but the actual realization of our sonship is possible only through Christ. Not until the Son of God became Man could men, either in this world or in worlds unseen, become the sons of God. The Incarnation raised human nature to a loftier level, lifted it nearer to God, fulfilled in a new and nobler manner the Divine idea of humanity.

V. These blessings are to be ascribed solely to God’s infinite love. We had no claim upon Him for gifts like these. Nor, in conferring them, did He act under the constraint of any law of His own nature which imposed upon Him either a necessity or an obligation to raise us to the dignity of Divine sonship. It is all the result of His free, unforced, spontaneous kindliness. What He has done for us is “to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed upon us in the Beloved.” (R. W. Dale, LL. D.)

Adoption

1. Wherein does the predestination of the fifth verse differ from the election of the fourth? Election only, and always, refers to the Church; predestination refers to the Church, and the world, and the whole universe. It is a general, all-embracing principle. He elected us that we should be holy, and to accomplish this He predestined us to the adoption of sons. Election is a mere passive preference of some rather than others, while predestination is active, and includes the ideas of ordering, defining, and controlling all things according to a settled purpose and plan. Election is the foundation of a Church, and predestination is the basis of providence.

2. But what is this adoption to which we are predestinated? It is the very first of the privileges which Paul ascribes to the Jewish nation--“To whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law and the promises; whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed forever” (Romans 9:4-5). In a wide sense, the Jews were nationally the children of God, and the principle of adoption was in their polity; for the Son of God, the Messiah, was the hope of the nation. They were His peculiar people (Deuteronomy 14:2). But the adoption is the peculiar privilege and glory of the New Testament Church, in which the incorruptible seed remains, because they are born of God.

3. This adoption into the family of God is by or through Jesus Christ.

4. The two words “unto Himself” has occasioned the commentators some trouble, and their sentiments are very various. But surely, looked at simply, the most common understanding can see no difficulty in this idea--“God has predestinated us unto the adoption of children to or for Himself.” Is it not a Scriptural idea that the Church is the peculiar treasure and property of God? (See Exodus 19:5; Deuteronomy 14:2; Psalms 135:4; Titus 2:14)

5. Note here, also, that this predestination and adoption are according to the good pleasure of His will. This is the mode and the measure of His working.

6. We see here the purpose in which all His working, before time and in time, ends--“That we might be to the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:6). The phrase “glory of His grace” is a Hebraism which our translators have rendered literally, but which means “His glorious grace.” (For similar forms see Colossians 1:27; 2 Thessalonians 1:9) The purpose of electing and redeeming love is to form from among the sinners of mankind a people to the praise and glory of God. The glorious grace of God shines forth in the struggling, wrestling Church more than anywhere else in the creation; for it is there put to the severest tests, and, like the rainbow in clouds and storms, it is enhanced by the contrast. As sure, and so far as God is the Ruler and Governor of the world, the great end of every creature must be His glory; and as grace is the form in which His glory has shone forth most brightly on this earth, the highest aim of the redeemed creature--in all states and conditions of being--should ever be “to the praise of His glorious grace.” (W. Graham, D. D.)

Adoption

I. The adoption of children to himself, unto which we are said to be predestinated. The adoption of children necessarily implies that those admitted or chosen to this honour are not naturally or legally children, but become so only by the will and act of Him who adopts them.

1. The “adoption of children” is the permanent restitution of sinners unto the favour, love, and enjoyment of God.

2. There is implied or included in this a participation in the Divine Glory, through the gift of the Holy Spirit. The third person in the Trinity receives the peculiar name of the “Spirit of Adoption.”

3. In “the adoption of children,” all is included whatsoever is embraced in the “inheritance of the saints in light.” “It doth not yet appear what we shall be.” “The half hath not yet been told us” concerning the dignity and blessedness of heaven.

II. God hath predestinated us unto the adoption of children. Now this predestination stands connected with the election spoken of in the previous verse. In respect of the purpose or design of God, it is not to be distinguished from that election--as if the one preceded the other in the order of time. When He elected or chose us in His love, He also predestinated us in His wisdom and power, and when He predestinated us He also in love chose us. But the term election has respect more to the affection of the Divine Heart, so to speak; whereas the term predestination has respect more to the plan and purpose of the Divine Mind. It leads us to consider a certain definite end, purposed, determined, and secured--which in the present case is the adoption of children to Himself. Infinite wisdom, and infinite power, can infallibly carry out the designs of infinite sovereignty; and He who hath chosen us out of love can easily, in His sovereign wisdom and power, bring us into the possession of all that infinite love would have us to enjoy.

III. The ground of this predestination, viz., “According to the good pleasure of His will.” The expression is to be understood of that sovereign will of God which acknowledges no superior beyond itself, and no cause whatsoever moving it from without.

IV. That God’s predestination and the good pleasure of His will are carried out by Jesus Christ--the Beloved--in whom we are accepted. The mystery of salvation is not perceived at all until we bring into account the necessity of such an atonement as could be effected only by the Son of God Himself.

V. The final end which God hath proposed in the salvation of the Church is “the praise of the glory of His grace.” “He hath predestinated us unto the adoption of children … to the praise of the glory of His grace.” God can accomplish no higher or better end than the manifestation of His own glory. Since, in and of Himself, He is infinitely and eternally blessed, therefore it was an act of pure goodness on the part of God to create a race of intelligent beings, who being endowed with freedom of will, might, in the right exercise of their powers and faculties, find their happiness in contemplating His glory and sharing His favour. This freedom having been abused by all, in departing from the true object of delight and satisfaction, it becomes an act of grace on the part of God to renew to any the favours of His love and friendship. Contemplating sinners lying in their guilt and pollution and misery, God found the highest motive for extending to them His goodness entirely in Himself. “I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for Mine own name’s sake.” (W. Alves, M. A.)

God wills our salvation

When the Crusaders heard the voice of Peter the Hermit, as he bade them go to Jerusalem to take it from the hands of the invaders, they cried out at once, “Deus vult; God wills it; God wills it”; and every man plucked his sword from its scabbard, and set out to reach the holy sepulchre, for God willed it. So come and drink, sinner; God wills it. Trust Jesus; God wills it. “Father, Thy will be done on earth even as it is in heaven.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Adoption defined and illustrated

Adoption is that act of God whereby men who were by nature the children of wrath even as others, are, entirely of the pure grace of God, translated out of the evil and black family of Satan, and brought actually and virtually into the family of God, so that they take His Name, share the privileges of sons, and are to all intents and purposes the actual offspring and children of God. Did you ever think what a high honour it is to be called a son of God? Suppose a judge of the land should have before him some traitor who was about to be condemned to die. Suppose that equity and law demanded this, but suppose it were possible for the judge to step from his throne and to say, “Rebel as thou air, I have found out a way whereby I can forgive thy rebellions. Man, thou art pardoned!” There is a flush of joy upon his cheek. “Man, thou art made rich; see, there is wealth!” Another smile passes over the countenance. “Man, thou art made so strong that; thou shalt be able to resist all thine enemies!” He rejoices again. “Man,” saith the judge at last, “thou art adopted into the Royal Family, and thou shalt one day wear a crown! Thou art now as much the Son of God as thou art the son of thine own father.” You can conceive the poor creature fainting with joy at such a thought. (C. H. Spurgeon.)


Verse 6

Ephesians 1:6

To the praise of the glory of His grace.

God’s glory in man’s salvation

1. All that God did from eternity intend about man has no end but His own glory. The reason is plain. God, who is wisdom itself, cannot work without an end. A wise man will do nothing but to some purpose. God’s object in making all things must be better than all those things which are done to attain that object, for the end is better than that which serves for it, as the body is better than food, raiment, etc. But, except God Himself, there is nothing better than the works of God; nothing better than every creature, save the Creator Himself. If, then, He must needs have an end why He makes things, and this end must needs be better than the things made for it, and nothing is better than all the creatures save only their Creator, it follows that God must needs have Himself as His end in everything he does. Since this is so, let us in all things labour to yield Him glory; whatever we are, let us be that in Him, and through Him, and for Him.

2. God generally intends the praise of His grace in all who are predestinated by Him. Let this stir us up to glorify Him in regard of His grace to us. Even as waters come from the sea, and return again to it, so from this Divine Ocean comes every blessing, and every benefit should, by praising this grace, be duly acknowledged with thankfulness.

3. The attributes of God are His essential glory. This should make us endeavour to know the properties of God, and view as far as we may the reflection which we have in His word and works of such infinite glory.

4. The grace which now works all good things for us, is the same which before all time purposed them to us.

5. The grace of God brings us to receive favour and grace in and through His Beloved. Christ has satisfied justice, so that grace may be freely bestowed upon us. (Paul Bayne.)

The grace of God

I. In salvation as a whole we see the glory of God’s grace. “The praise of the glory of His grace” in rescuing man from the deep ruin into which he had fallen, in leading our captivity captive, in uplifting us into heaven, and giving us to be partakers of His glory through the merit of Jesus Christ our Lord--in all this grace is as glorious as was power at the Red Sea. No stinted thing then, no small matter, but something great and grand and glorious will that salvation be, which is to the praise of the glory of so great and favourite an attribute as the grace of God. I have tried if I could to think of what grace at its utmost must be; but who by searching can find out God? It is not possible for the human mind to conceive of power at its utmost. Pharaoh’s overthrow gives you but a guess at what the omnipotence of the Lord can accomplish, it can shake all worlds to dust, dissolve the universe, and annihilate creation. Power at its utmost, who shall compass it? And grace, my brethren, grace at its utmost! When all the chosen ones shall be gathered together, and the Church of God in heaven shall be perfect, not one living stone lacking of the entire fabric, then across that edifice shall this inscription be written in letters of light, “To the praise of the glory of His grace.” The work of salvation from first to last, as a whole, was devised and carried out, and shall be perfected to the praise of the glory of the grace of God.

II. This is true of each detail of salvation. I gather that from the position of my text. The fifth verse speaks of predestination and adoption, and the sixth verse speaks of acceptance in the Beloved, and the position of my text puts all three of these under the same mark, they are all “to the praise of the glory of His grace.” Brethren, the sea is salt as a whole, and every drop of it is salt in its degree: if the whole work of salvation be of grace, every detail of that work is equally of grace. The rays of the sun as a whole possess certain properties, analyse one single sunbeam and you shall find all those properties there. I have just now said that the whole of salvation might be resembled to a great temple, and that across its front would be written, “To the praise of the glory of His grace”; now, some of the ancient Eastern buildings were erected by certain monarchs, and were dedicated to them, and not only was the whole pile set up to their honour, but each separate brick was stamped with the royal cartouche or coat of arms; not only the whole structure but each separate brick bore the impress of the builder; so is it in the matter of salvation: the whole is of grace, and each particular portion of it equally manifests in its measure the free favour of God.

1. Election.

2. Redemption.

3. Effectual calling.

4. Pardon and justification.

5. Mark you well that the next series of steps, which we call sanctification, or perseverance, or, better still, gracious conservation, all of these must be of grace too.

No man has any claim upon God to keep him from going into sin. Thus, from foundation to pinnacle, the temple of our salvation is all of grace.

III. The peculiar glories of this grace ought to be pointed out.

1. It is sovereign. Given to man according to the absolute will of the Almighty.

2. Free. Man is not expected to do anything to earn or obtain the grace of God; he would not, if he were expected; he could not, if he were required.

3. Full. Grace to cover all the man’s sins, whatever they may be.

4. Unfailing in continuance. The gifts of God are without repentance. Grace is no intermittent brook flowing today and dried up tomorrow, no fleeting meteor dazzling all beholders and then vanishing in thick darkness.

5. Unalloyed and unmingled. God’s grace in saving souls rules alone. Human merit does not intrude here and there to make a patchwork of the whole. Grace is Alpha, grace is Omega. It is grace’s glory that no mortal finger touches her work, and no human hammer is lifted up thereon.

6. Need I say that it is one glory of this grace that while it thus reveals itself so fully, it never interferes with any other attribute of God? On the contrary, it only tends to illustrate all the other glories of the Divine character.

IV. This grace ought to be the subject of praise.

1. Praise God while your mind surveys the whole plan of salvation.

2. Let all men see the result of grace in you.

3. Add to your holy living your own personal testimony.

V. The great ground of hope for sinners. My last word shall briefly indicate what is the privilege of each sinner who would rejoice in the sovereign grace of God. Often as we explain faith, yet still we need to explain it again. I met with an illustration taken from the American war. One had been trying to instruct a dying officer in what faith was. At last he caught the idea, and he said, “I could not understand it before, but I see it now. It is just this--I surrender, I surrender to Jesus.” That is it. You have been fighting against God, standing out against Him, trying to make terms more or less favourable to yourself; now here you stand in the presence of God, and you drop the sword of your rebellion and say, “Lord, I surrender, I am Thy prisoner. I trust to Thy mercy to save me. I have done with self, I fall into Thy arms.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The glory of Jehovah’s grace

I. The glory of grace is its freeness: it fixes upon objects that are most unworthy; bestows upon them the richest blessings; raises them to the highest honour; promises them the greatest happiness; and all for its own glory. Nothing can be freer than grace.

II. The glory of grace is its power: it conquers the stubbornest sinners; subdues the hardest hearts; tames the wildest wills; enlightens the darkest understandings; breaks off the strongest fetters; and invariably conquers its objects. Grace is omnipotent.

III. The glory of grace is its benevolence: it never injured one; it has delivered, supplied, conducted, supported, and glorified thousands; it brings the inexhaustible fulness of God to supply the creature’s wants. Grace gives away all it has, reserving nothing for itself but the praise and glory of its acts. Jesus is grace personified; in Him it may be seen in all its beauty, excellence, and loveliness; by Him it is displayed in all its native dignity. O Jesus! glorify Thy free, powerful, and benevolent grace in me! (Essex Remembrancer.)

Grace is all

Payson, when dying, expressed himself with great earnestness respecting the grace of God as exercised in saving lost men, and seemed particularly affected that it should be bestowed on one so ill-deserving as himself. “Oh, how sovereign! Oh, how sovereign! Grace is the only thing that can make us like God. I might be dragged through heaven, earth, and hell, and I should be still the same sinful, polluted wretch, unless God Himself should renew and cleanse me.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)

We muse glorify God’s grace

Had I all the faith of the patriarchs, all the zeal of the prophets, all the good works of the apostles, the constancy of the martyrs, and all the flaming devotion of seraphs, I would disclaim them all in point of dependence, and rely only on free grace. I would count all but dung and dross when put in competition with the infinitely precious death and meritorious righteousness of my dear Saviour Jesus Christ; and, if ever a true and lasting reformation of manners is produced amongst us, it must (under the influence of the Eternal Spirit) be produced by the doctrines of free grace. Till these doctrines are generally inculcated, the most elegant harangues from the pulpit, or the most correct dissertations from the press, will be no better than a pointless arrow or a broken bow. (Hervey.)

Glorifying God’s grace

Dr. Kane, finding a flower under the Humboldt glacier, was more affected by it because it grew beneath the lip and cold bosom of the ice than he would have been by the most gorgeous garden bloom. So the most single, struggling grace in the heart of one far removed from Divine influence may be dearer to God than a whole catalogue of virtues in the life of one more favoured of heaven. (H. W. Beecher.)

Accepted in the Beloved.

Accepted of the great Father

God’s love of His dear Son covers all believers, as a canopy covers all who come beneath it. As a hen covereth her chickens with her wings, so God’s love to Christ covers all the children of promise. As the sun shining forth from the gates of the morning gilds all the earth with golden splendour, so this great love of God to the Well-beloved, streaming forth to Him, enlightens all who are in Him. God is so boundlessly pleased with Jesus that in Him He is altogether well pleased with us.

I. I will begin by treating the text by way of contrast. Brethren and sisters, the grace of God hath made us to be this day “accepted in the Beloved”; but it was not always so.

1. What a contrast is our present condition of acceptance to our position under the law through Adam’s fall. By actual sin we made ourselves to be the very reverse of accepted, for we were utterly refused. It might have been said of us, “Reprobate silver shall men call them, because God hath rejected them.” Mark, it is not said that we are “acceptable,” though that were a very great thing, but we are actually accepted; it has become not a thing possible that God might accept us, but He has accepted us in Christ. Lay this to your soul, and may it fill you with delight.

2. Think, again, of the contrast between what you are now, and what you would have been had not grace stepped in. Left out of Christ, we might at this time have been going on from sin to sin.

3. One more point I cannot quite pass over, and that is, the contrast between what we now are and all we ever could have been in the most favourable circumstances apart from the Beloved. If it had been possible for us out of Christ to have had desires after righteousness, yet those desires would all have run in a wrong direction; we should have had a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge, and so, going about to establish our own righteousness, we should not have submitted ourselves to the righteousness of God. At this moment the prayers we offered would never have been received at the throne; the praises we presented would have been an ill savour unto God; all that we could have aimed to accomplish in the matter of good works, had we striven to our utmost, would have been done in wilfulness and pride, and so must necessarily have fallen short of acceptance. We should have heard the voice of the Eternal saying, “Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto Me”; for out of Christ our righteousness is as unacceptable as our unrighteousness, and all our attempts to merit acceptance increase our unworthiness.

II. Secondly, we will say a little by way of explanation, that the text may sink yet deeper into your hearts, and afford you richer enjoyment. “He hath made us accepted in the Beloved.” Much went before this, but, oh, what a morning without clouds rose upon us when we knew our acceptance and were assured thereof. Acceptance was the watchword, and had troops of angels met us we should have rejoiced that we were as blest as they. Understand that this acceptance comes to us entirely as a work of God--“He hath made us accepted in the Beloved.” We never made ourselves acceptable, nor could we have done so, but He that hath made us first in creation, hath now new made us by His grace, and so hath made us accepted in the Beloved. That this was an act of pure grace there can be no doubt, for the verse runs thus, “Wherein He hath made us accepted in the Beloved,” that is, in His grace. There was no reason in ourselves why we should have been put into Christ, and so accepted; the reason lay in the heart of the Eternal Father Himself.

III. Can we get a step farther? Will the Holy Spirit help us while I say a few words by way of enlargement?

1. If we are “accepted in the Beloved,” then, first, our persons are accepted: we ourselves are well pleasing to Him. God looks upon us now with pleasure.

2. Being ourselves accepted, the right of access to Him is given us. When a person is accepted with God he may come to God when he chooses. He is one of these courtiers who may come even to the royal throne and meet with no rebuff. No chamber of our great Father’s house is closed against us; no blessing of the covenant is withheld from us; no sweet smile of the Father’s face is refused us.

3. And, being accepted ourselves, our prayers are also accepted. Children of God, can you sincerely believe this? When God delights in men He gives them the desires of their hearts.

4. It follows, as a pleasant sequence, that our gifts are accepted, for those who are accepted with God find a great delight in giving of their substance to the glory of His name. Then let us try what we can do for Him. Here is a great lump of quartz, but if the Lord can see a grain of gold, He will save the quartz for the sake of it. He says, “Destroy it not, for a blessing is in it.” I do not mean that the Lord deals thus with all men. It is only for accepted men that He has this kind way of accepting their gifts. Had you seen me, when a young man, and an usher, walking through the streets with rolls of drawings from a boys’ school, you would have guessed that I considered them of no value and fit only to be consigned to the fire; but I always took a great interest in the drawings of my own boy, and I still think them rather remarkable. You smile, I dare say, but I do so think, and my judgment is as good as yours. I value them because they are his, and I think I see budding genius in every touch, but you do not see it because you are so blind. I see it since love has opened my eyes. God can see in His people’s gifts to Him and their works for Him a beauty which no eyes but His can perceive. Oh, if He so treats our poor service, what ought we not to do for Him? What zeal, what alacrity should stimulate us! If we are ourselves accepted our sacrifices shall be acceptable.

IV. We have thus pursued our train of thought in a contrast, an explanation, and an enlargement; let us now indulge in a few reflections. “Accepted in the Beloved.” May not each believer talk thus with himself--I have my sorrows and griefs, I have my aches and pains, and weaknesses, but I must not repine, for God accepts me. Ah me! How one can laugh at griefs when this sweet word comes in, “accepted in the Beloved.” I may be blind, but I am “accepted in the Beloved:” I may be lame, I may be poor, I may be despised, I may be persecuted, I may have much to put up with in many ways, but really these troubles of the flesh count for little or nothing to me since I am “accepted in the Beloved.” Is not this a word to die with? We will meet death and face his open jaws with this word, “Accepted in the Beloved.” Will not this be a word to rise with amidst the blaze of the great judgment day?

V. And now I wish to finish with this one practical use. If it be so that we are “accepted in the Beloved,” then let us go forth and tell poor sinners how they can be accepted too. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Accepted in the Beloved

There is implied here a twofold ground of acceptance--

1. On account of our relation to His person.

2. On account of His atonement for our sins. This word “accepted” only occurs twice in the New Testament. The Spirit of God applies it here to believers in Christ. The same expression is applied to the Virgin Mary, when He proclaims her “highly favoured” (Luke 1:28). He hath made us His Hephzibahs--made us dear to Him in the Beloved--made us His delights, a joy to Himself in the Beloved. Not “the Righteous One,” though that is true. Not “the Holy One,” though that is true; nor through His blood and merits, although He has so done. But there is a deeper truth still: “accepted in His person” before He became man. Accepted in Him who is “the brightness of the Father’s glory, and the express image of His person.” “Accepted in the Beloved.” It is not the whole truth that we are accepted for His merits and His atonement, though that is true. But here the record calls us back to a past eternity, and tells us of our being made “accepted in the Beloved.” And yet there are multitudes of professing Christians who do not trust, or know, or believe that they are accepted in Him, and who do not enjoy the blessedness and rest of looking up into their Father’s face and recognizing the love bestowed on them in the Father’s Beloved, and the security that that love has surrounded them with! They think they are only accepted according to the measure of their prayers, their merits, their good works, and their faith, instead of according to the measure of the Father’s everlasting love for His Son. Yes! we are here plainly taught that our acceptance in the first place was not even on account of Christ’s own merits, or prayers, or blood, or sacrifice, much less ours, but solely and only on account of our relation to His person as God’s Beloved One; and the subsequent interference of sin only brought out the resources of redemption, forgiveness, salvation, and adoption in Him “in whom all fulness dwells.” (M. Rainsford, B. A.)

Accepted in the Beloved

I. Positive union.

1. In the heart of Christ, and in His heart from all eternity. With prescient eye Christ beheld His people before they were yet formed. Hath He not said, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore with the bands of My kindness have I drawn thee.” “As the Father hath loved me, even so have I loved you.”

2. We are also in Christ’s book. Having loved us we were chosen in Him and elected by His Father. We were not chosen separately and distinctly, and as individuals alone and apart. We were chosen in Christ. Blessed fact! the same register which includes Christ as first born, includes all the brethren.

3. We are in Christ’s hand. All those whom the Father gave to Christ were bestowed upon Christ as a surety; and in the last great day, at the Redeemer’s hand will God require the souls of all that were given to Him. Just as the Apostle Paul argues concerning Levi, that Levi is inferior to Christ; for he says, Abraham was less than Melchisedec, for without doubt the less is blessed of the greater, so also Levi was less than Melchisedec, for he was in the loins of Abraham when Melchisedec met him. So, beloved, as Levi was in the loins of Abraham and paid tithes to Melchisedec, so we were in the loins of Christ and paid the debt due to Divine justice, gave to the law its fulfilment, and to wrath its satisfaction. In the loins of Christ we have passed through the tomb already, and have entered into that which is within the veil, and are made to sit down in heavenly places, even in Him. This day the chosen of God are one with Christ and in the loins of Christ.

5. As we are in the heart of Christ, in the book of Christ, in the hand of Christ, and in the loins of Christ, there is yet another thought dearer and sweeter still. We are in the person of Christ; for we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones. By the mysterious operations of the quickening Spirit the sinner begins to live a spiritual life. Now, in the moment when the spiritual life was first given, there commenced in that soul a vital and personal union with the person of Christ Jesus. There had always been in that soul a secret mystical union in the Divine purpose; but now there comes to be a union in effect, and the soul is in Christ from that hour, in a sense in which it never was before.

II. Accepted in the Beloved. What does our acceptance include?

1. Justification before God. We stand on our own trial. When we stand in Christ we are acquitted; while standing in ourselves the only verdict must be condemnation.

2. Divine complacency.

3. Divine delight.

III. Divine operations; “made accepted.” All of God, not of man. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Jesus Christ the Beloved One, and sinners accented of God freely in Him

Jesus Christ is the Beloved, the eminently Beloved One. In discoursing from this doctrine, I shall--

I. Show in what respects Christ is the eminently Beloved One.

II. Make some improvement.

I. I am to show in what respects Christ is the eminently Beloved One.

1. He is the Beloved of the excellent ones of the earth. Who these are, ye may see (Psalms 16:3). They are “the saints.” Him all the saints love with a love above all persons and all things (Luke 14:26). And--

2. Christ is the Beloved of the glorious ones in heaven. All eyes are upon Him there, for He is there the light of the pleasant land (Revelation 21:23), as the sun is in this world. And He is there--

(a) In respect of His Person.

(b) In respect of His office. I shall conclude this point with a word of application.

I. Hereby ye may try whether ye be saints or not, partakers of the Divine nature. If so, Christ will be your eminently Beloved One.

II. Of reproof to those who love Him not eminently, above all. It is an evidence, that--

1. Ye know Him not (John 4:10). None can be let into a discovery of Christ in His glory, but must love Him (Matthew 13:44-46). It is to the blind world only there is no beauty in Him for which He is to be desired.

2. That ye are in love with your sins and a vain world. For who would loath the physician but he that loves his disease and cannot part with it?

III. Let him be your Beloved then, and give Him your heart.

1. He is best worth your love. None has done so much for sinners as Christ has, dying for them.

2. If ye love Him not, ye will be constructed haters of Him, and enemies to Him (1 Corinthians 16:22). Doctrine

II. The way how a sinner comes to be accepted of God is freely in Christ.

1. What is implied in this.

I. A state of non-acceptance, or unacceptableness with God, that sinners are in while they are not in Christ. And we may take up this in these following things:

1. They are offenders.

2. Unpardoned offenders.

3. God is not pleased with them; for His being pleased with any of mankind is in His Son Jesus Christ, and without Him He can be pleased with none of them (Matthew 3:1-17, ult.; Hebrews 11:5-6).

4. He is highly displeased with them. There is a cloud of Divine displeasure ever upon them (John 3:1-36, ult.).

5. He cannot endure to have any communion or intercourse with them, farther than in the way of common providence (Psalms 5:5). He and they are at enmity, He legally, they really; so there can be no communion (Amos 3:3). And they cannot have it till they come to Christ (John 14:6).

6. He loathes them, His soul abhors them, as abominable. They are abominable in their persons unto God, as wholly corrupt and defiled (Titus 1:15-16).

7. The wrath of God is upon them, and they lie under His curse.

II. A way provided how sinners may be accepted.

1. God is ready to accept of them now that will come to Him in His own way (2 Corinthians 5:19).

2. There is ready for sinners what may procure them acceptance with a holy God (Matthew 22:4).

3. There is open proclamation made in the gospel, that all may have the benefit of that sacrifice, and be accepted of God.

III. The sinner’s bestirring himself for acceptance with God. There is a way to acceptance, but the sinner must take that way, else he will not get acceptance. He cannot sit still careless, and be accepted. The sinner’s bestirring himself in this matter, takes in these three things.

1. A conviction of unacceptableness to God (John 16:8). Men must be convinced of their being unacceptable to God, ere they will come to Christ. It is their not seeing their own loathsomeness, that makes them slight the sacrifices of sweet savour; and think to be accepted of God, while yet they are not in Christ.

2. A weighty concern and uneasiness about it.

3. Anxiety of heart for it (Acts 2:37). There must be earnest longings to be accepted of Him, yea, the soul must be brought to esteem and so prize it, as to be content with it upon any terms (Acts 9:6).

IV. The next general head is to consider the nature of a sinner’s acceptance with God.

1. I shall consider the nature of a sinner’s acceptance with God in itself. And in itself it is a great and unspeakable benefit, and implies these following things:--

1. The ceasing of wrath against the soul (Hosea 14:4).

2. The curse is removed (Galatians 3:13).

3. He is fully pardoned (Isaiah 43:25).

4. He is reconciled to God (Romans 5:1).

5. God is pleased with him (Hebrews 11:5).

6. He is admitted to communion with God.

7. God has a delight and complacency in him.

He looks on him in His own Son, and takes pleasure in him, as covered with His righteousness.

V. Let us consider this acceptance in its effects and consequents. It is in these an unspeakable privilege. By means of it--

1. The springs of mercy are opened to the sinner, that rivers of compassion may flow towards him (Romans 5:1, etc.).

2. He is adjudged to eternal life (2 Thessalonians 1:6-7; Acts 26:18). Life was promised in the first covenant, upon the fulfilling of the law; now the believer being accepted of God as a righteous person, for whom the law is fulfilled, is accordingly adjudged to live forever.

3. The channel of sanctification is cleared for him, and the dominion of sin is broken in him (Romans 6:14).

4. He is privileged with peace of conscience.

5. Access to God with confidence.

6. His works accepted.

7. The sting removed from afflictions and death.

8. All things working for good (Romans 8:28).

VI. I proceed to show the way of a sinner’s acceptance with God.

First, It is “freely.” There is nothing in the sinner himself to procure it, or move God to it (Romans 3:24). It is done freely, in that--

1. It is without respect to any work done by the sinner (Titus 3:5). Grace and works are inconsistent in this matter.

2. It is without respect to any good qualification or disposition wrought in the sinner (Romans 4:5). For--

Secondly, It is in Christ the sinner is accepted. It implies--

1. The cause of a sinner’s acceptance with God. It is for Christ’s sake (Romans 3:24-25).

2. The state of acceptableness of a sinner, wherein he may, and will be, and cannot but be accepted of God; it is being in Christ, united to Him by faith. One must not think to be accepted for Christ’s sake while out of Christ; no more than the branch of one tree can partake of the sap of another, while not ingrafted into it; or the slayer could be safe, while he was not yet got within the gates of the city of refuge. But in Christ the sinner is in a state of acceptableness to God.

We take up this in these five things following:--

1. In Christ the sinner may be accepted of God (2 Corinthians 5:19).

2. In Christ the sinner will be accepted. Any, even the worst of sinners shall certainly be accepted in Christ (Acts 16:31). Whosoever shall make their escape into this city of refuge shall be safe. Christ will refuse none that come to Him; and God will reject none that are in Christ.

3. In Christ the sinner cannot but be accepted. It is impossible it should fail or miscarry (Hebrews 6:18).

4. That moment a sinner is in Christ, he is accepted (Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus”)

I come now to the improvement of this subject.

1. Then the door of acceptance with God is open to all; none are excluded (Isaiah 55:1-2).

2. Seek then acceptance with God, that ye may find favour with Him. This should be your main aim (2 Corinthians 5:9). Here your happiness lies in time and eternity.

3. Seek it freely, without pretending to anything in yourselves to recommend you to His acceptance or favour.

4. Seek it through Jesus Christ only, that is, by faith in Him, laying the whole stress of your acceptance on His righteousness.

5. Therefore as ever ye would have acceptance or favour with God, seek to be in Christ; to be united to Him. For as there is no acceptance with God, but for His sake; so there is no acceptance for His sake, but to those that are in Him (Colossians 1:27). There is salvation in Christ, but none partake of it that are not in Him; a righteousness in Him, but it covers none but the members of His body. (T. Boston, D. D.)

The central doctrine--accepted in the Beloved

The doctrine of justification by faith, the central doctrine of Protestantism as it is sometimes called, is, as it is often presented, a hard, dry, formal statement of a most precious and inspiring truth. The truth is in its very nature so full of tenderness, of affection, of the most sacred and intimate experience, that it is quite impossible to put it into a formula. Let us imagine some doctor of the law going to the home of the prodigal after the feast was over, taking the father and the son aside, and questioning them, notebook in hand: “A very remarkable and beautiful reconciliation has taken place here,” he says: “the rebel against parental authority is pardoned: the wanderer has returned to his home; favour and plenty and peace have been restored to one who has long been deprived of them; will you not have the goodness now to condense into a statement not more than five or six lines in length the real nature of this transaction?” The crude and stupid absurdity of such a proposition would be evident enough to all who have read the touching story. As if all the regret, the gratitude, the hopes, the fears, the doubts, the confidences, the anguish, the dread, the thankfulness, the peace of that deep human experience could be reduced to a logical definition! And yet men undertake to put into concise theological propositions the whole truth concerning the return of the sinner to the favour of God. “What is justification?” asks the Shorter Catechism. “Justification,” answers the Shorter Catechism, “is an act of God’s free grace, wherein He pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in His sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us and received by faith alone.” That is the scientific definition of justification by faith, perhaps as good a definition as ever was framed. And it may help us a little toward a right understanding of what justification is, just as Weisbach’s great books on hydraulics might help us a little toward understanding the ministry of water; just as Bishop’s two big volumes on marriage and divorce may throw some light on the nature of the family relation; but he who depends on such a formulary as this for his knowledge of the way in which the sinner is restored by faith in Christ to the favour of God, must remain in profound ignorance of the whole matter. In some way, it is clear, the New Testament represents God as accepting men through Christ. In some way Christ is regarded by the believer as his substitute. He is the Mediator between God and men. By faith in Him we are justified. These words meant something to the men who used them, and they ought to mean something to us. What is their meaning? They cannot, of course, describe any legal transfer of moral qualities. Moral qualities cannot be legally transferred from one person to another. My demerits cannot be lawfully transferred to another, nor can the merits of another be lawfully transferred to me. My guilt is my own, and can by no possibility be imputed to another being. Can anyone else in the universe be blamed for a sin of mine in which he had no part? On the other hand it is equally impossible that I should be regarded as entitled to praise for a good act performed by another person, of which I had no knowledge, and in which I had no part. “Every one of you shall give an account for himself unto God.” The entire and absolute personality of moral qualities, of guilt or innocence, of praise or blame, is the fundamental truth of morality. Any legal interference with this fundamental principle would be subversive of all righteousness. But it is said that though moral quality cannot be transferred, legal liability can be; that though Christ cannot be morally guilty on account of our sins, God regards Him as legally responsible for them; that though His merits cannot be legally transferred to us, God does consider us as blameless before the law on His account. We are justified because we claim Him as our substitute. Now there is under all these phrases a great truth. Take the following story as an illustration of it. John Goodman is a citizen of noble character and of large philanthropy. He has a son, whom he loved as the apple of his eye, and who is justifying his father’s affection by growing up into blameless manliness One night a young desperado, the offspring of criminals, whose life has been spent among the worst classes of our cities, breaks into John Goodman’s house, with the intent of robbery, and nearly kills his son. The father comes to the rescue, captures the young burglar, binds him fast, and waits for the morning to deliver him up to justice. In the meantime the son revives, and, seeing the youth of the criminal, is touched with pity for him, a sentiment that has already begun to kindle the father’s heart. Before morning father and son have resolved to make a great venture to save this wretched boy from his life of crime and shame. They tell him that if he will turn from his evil ways, he may have a home with them, sharing their comfort and their plenty; that they will protect him, so far as they can, from the consequences of his past misdeeds; that they will guard him from bad influences, and open to him paths of integrity and honour; that he shall be recognized as an equal in the family, and shall be joint heir to the estate. All this is offered him by the father, and urged upon him, even with tears, by the son whose life he had attempted. Of course it is very difficult for the wretch to believe that these assurances are sincere. He thinks at first that they are mocking and taunting him, and his lips curl with scorn and resentment as he listens. But by and by he perceives that they are in earnest, and he is overwhelmed by their marvellous goodness. He casts himself down before them; he kisses their feet; he tells them in broken words the story of his gratitude. And he does honestly try to live the better life toward which they seek to lead him. It is the deepest purpose of his life to be upright and faithful and pure. But, as anyone might easily foretell, this is a purpose hard for such a boy to shape in act. He is indolent, and profane, and reckless by habit; his mind is full of gross and foul thoughts: his temper is untamed; his whole nature has been warped and corrupted by his early training. This ingrained evil finds expression in many ways. After a time the good man begins to despair of ever making anything of this unfortunate youth; he begins to regret that, instead of trying to reclaim him, he had not handed him over to the police. But while he is thus wavering in his purpose, he chances to enter the room of his protege, and there he finds upon the table a picture of his own son, soiled with much handling, evidently left in sight by accident--and on the back of it, in the rude handwriting and doubtful orthography of the waif, these words written: “I want to be like him. I pray God to help me to be nearer like him. I’m far enough from it now, God knows; but I watch him all the while, and try to live as good a life as he lives. God bless him for all his goodness to me!” The father’s eyes fill with tears as he reads these simple words. He discerns in them the deep purpose of the poor boy whose faulty performance has so tried him. His heart cannot but be touched by the lad’s choice of a hero. He knows that the choice is a worthy one, and he knows that the lad’s love for his own son will have in it a regenerating power. He has no more misgivings concerning the wisdom of his attempt to save this lost one; and always after this he couples the lad in his thoughts with his own son; and feels toward him something of the tenderness with which he regards his own son. Since the poor lad cherishes for the other this passionate friendship, since he takes the father’s pride as his own ideal and pattern, how else can the father regard him? He is accepted in the belayed. (Washington Gladden, D. D.)

Provision for eternity

Accepted in the Beloved. The phrase is simple, but not, at a mere glance, immediately obvious. To feel its force, we must enter in and survey its interior, and see as far as our short-sighted faculties can reach, what it takes within its range. It is a summary and simple form for gathering up everything we need to have, in a provision for the world to come.

I. Where is the provision laid up? It is laid up in a living Person. It is with a living Person that we have to do from first to last. And the fulness and suitableness of that Person comes forth here in a vivid and peculiar manner--for you observe how He is named. By a name of holy endearment and of Divine tenderness He is called here, “the Beloved.” “Lovely” and “Beloved” He is in Himself, because from Him emanate whatever qualities of good are possible in a creature--because in Him, as the God-man mediator, all excellencies, both created and uncreated, are centred and combined. In the prospect, moreover, of what He was to fulfil on earth, as the Redeemer of mankind, beheld and set apart from all eternity as the object of the Father’s infinite complacency and delight--the name in the text belongs to Him in a peculiar manner. But further observe, He is “the Beloved,” because through Him alone could a holy God find the fitting channel for His love to man. He is “the Beloved,” moreover, specially because of the perfect fulfilment in Him of the relations in which He stands, at once to God and to man; for whatever is due to God, and everything requisite for the deliverance and happiness of man, are found in infinite fulness in Him. His person communicates to everything He did and still does, in our stead, a value, a worth, which never can be measured, and to which no limits can be set.

II. What provision has been laid up for us “in the Beloved.” The text proclaims it in terms so simple, that some may be apt to pass them by without much consideration. It is acceptance “in the Beloved.” To be “accepted”--to have our acceptance before God--what is this? It is first of all--

1. To be cleared and acquitted in the eye of the law--to be, in the judgment of a holy God, discharged and set free. It has its foundation broad and deep in the precious fact, which is immediately connected with it in the words following the text, at verse seven--it rests upon “Redemption”--“Redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” You see how deep down it goes--as deep as the humiliation of the Son of God from heaven to earth, even to the utmost extremity of His abasement beneath the curse!

2. But there is something more in the acceptance wherewith we are accepted in Christ. It is also to be fitted for service. It is to be put into the position of those whose worship, whose free-will offerings of grateful obedience are well pleasing to God. It is to have liberty to serve Him all our days “without fear,” and from the blessed motives of love and thankfulness.

3. The holiness of character which has its beginning in the acceptance of our persons. To be “accepted in the Beloved” is to begin to be holy. To have your feet planted on the “foundation of God,” which “standeth sure,” is to depart from iniquity. (J. S. Muir.)

The acceptation of free grace

A ship was sailing in the southern waters of the Atlantic, when another was sighted which was making signals of distress. They bore towards the distressed ship, and hailed them. “What is the matter?” “We are dying for want of water,” was the response. “Dip it up then,” was the answer, “you are in the mouth of the Amazon River.” Those sailors were thirsting, and suffering, and fearing death, and longing intensly for water, and all the while they were supposing that there was nothing but the ocean’s brine around them; when, in fact, they had sailed unconsciously into the broad mouth of the mightest river on the globe, and did not know it: and though to them it seemed that they must perish with thirst, yet there was at least a hundred miles of fresh water all around them; and they had nothing to do but as they were bidden to “dip it up.”

The freeness of grace

If you say, “I do not know why He should save me; I am not worthy to be saved,” that is a fact; you are not. If you say, “I do not think I have a right to look to Him for salvation; I have not done anything that should give me a claim on Him for so great a blessing,” that is true; you have not. It is not because you deserve Divine mercies that you have a right to expect them. I take a dozen beggar boys out of the street, and they say, “I do not know why you should like me; I am unlovely, and there is nothing attractive about me.” That is so. And I take you that you may become lovely. “But I am filthy and ragged.” Yes, you are; and I take you that you may be washed and clothed. “But I am stupid and ignorant.” So you are; and I take you to educate you. “But I am full of all manner of wickedness.” I know that; and it is because you are so wicked that I am determined, with God’s help, to rescue you. Now, Christ does not take us because we are so pure and sweet, and virtuous and lovely. He takes us because He cannot bear to see a soul that is destined to immortality less than high and noble; and because He means to make us what He would have us to be, He sends us to school. “They that are well,” He tells us, “need not a physician; but they that are sick.” If you are sick, and will accept Him for your physician, He will cure you. (H. W. Beecher.)

Christ a propitiation

Plutarch tells us that when Themistocles in the hour of his exile wished to be reconciled with Admetus, King of the Molossians, whom he had previously offended, he took the king’s son in his arms, and kneeled down before the household gods. The plea was successful, in fact it was the only one the Molossians looked upon as not to be refused, and so the philosopher found a refuge among them. And do not we come in this way when we approach the Majesty on High? We take hold of the King’s Son, and hope to find acceptance through Him alone--we hope to be “accepted in the Beloved.”


Verses 6-12

Verse 7

Ephesians 1:7

In whom we have redemption through His blood.

Redemption in Christ

God has made Christ an Adam, head, root, receptacle and storehouse, in whom are treasured all those good things which from Him are communicated to us.

1. By nature we are no better than in a spiritual bondage.

2. We have deliverance from our spiritual thraldom by Christ.

3. That by which we are ransomed and redeemed is the blood of Christ.

All tears, in God’s time, shall be wiped from our eyes; and meanwhile all our sufferings are so changed, that we know them to be not the result of God’s vengeance, but of His fatherly love and care, His design being that we may partake further, by means of them, in the quiet fruit of righteousness. (Paul Bayne.)

Our redemption

I. Who are the subjects of this redemption? “We” who were chosen in Christ to be holy; “we” who have believed and trusted in Christ. Redemption, though offered to all, is actually bestowed only on those who repent and believe.

II. What is the nature of this redemption? It is the redemption of the soul from the guilt of sin by pardon.

III. The way and manner, in which believers become partakers of this privilege. “Through the blood of Christ.”

IV. The fountain from which our redemption flows. “The riches of His grace.” (J. Lathrop, D. D.)

Redemption

I. The meaning of redemption. Suppose any article, pledged for a certain sum, and that it was redeemed, would it not revert to its owner again, and be his own, and be free? Suppose a man a prisoner, and ransomed, or redeemed by having a ransom paid for him. If the ransom were sufficient and accepted, would he not be free? Suppose an estate mortgaged and redeemed from its mortgage, would it not be free? Does not redemption in all these cases mean a complete and perfect deliverance, so that if there be not deliverance, then the term redemption cannot be applied; for the person or the thing is really not redeemed.

II. the means of its accomplishment. The price--“through His blood.” If any other means had been sufficient, is it possible, think you, that Christ would have died? Would the precious blood of the Lamb of God have been poured out if any price less costly had been sufficient? If you could save your children from destruction by any other means than the peril of your life, would you risk that life unnecessarily? And surely the Father had not sent His beloved Son to die upon the cross if other ransom could have been found for guilty man.

III. How different is the ground of our forgiveness from the natural expectation of the heart. How different from the miserable hope that men derive from the thought that they are not So bad as others. How different from the miserable hope they derive from the idea that they have amended their lives and reformed their habits, and are better than their former selves, and therefore trust that they are on this ground more acceptable to God. How different from any such miserable hope--if hope it can be called, which must ever be clouded by the consciousness of sin, by the feeling that, however imperfect and false, the standard of attainment be which we have raised, we must fall short of our own standard, and sink beneath its level, when measured even by our own conscience. True it is, indeed, that if a sinner believes the gospel his life will be totally changed; he will be different from those who believe it not, and different from what he was himself as an unbeliever; but this is the effect, not the cause, of his salvation; he is changed not to be saved, but because he is saved. (R. J. McGhee, M. A.)

Blessings resulting from the death of Christ

I. We must notice the privileges themselves. These are twofold--“we have redemption,” and we have “the forgiveness of sins.” We shall speak of them in order:--and, First, with respect to redemption. It denotes a change of state from bondage to liberty; and thus may be considered as implying--

1. Deliverance from the power of our adversary the devil.

2. Redemption respects our deliverance from sin. It no longer reigns in those who are Christ’s, although it may not yet be thoroughly eradicated.

3. This redemption, again, respects our deliverance from the fears of death--death corporeal, and death eternal.

We now pass on to notice the other privilege mentioned in the text, and that is, “the forgiveness of sins.”

1. This forgiveness is full. It reaches to all sins--past, present, and future.

2. This forgiveness is altogether free. The distinctive excellency of the gospel of Jesus Christ is freeness. All the blessings it brings are as free as the air we breathe.

II. The procuring cause of these privileges. Says the apostle, “In whom we have redemption.” But who is He? Why the same who is referred to in the preceding verse. He in whom we are “blessed with all spiritual blessings. He in whom we were “chosen before the foundation of the world.” He by whom we have received the adoption of children, and in whom we stand accepted in the sight of God. And who is He but the Lord Jesus Christ, of whom we read in another place, “that God having in time past spoken unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son”; and by Him alone, for “there is no other name given among men whereby we can be saved.” Hence you will observe that it is seldom, perhaps never, that the sacred writers fail to direct us to Christ, when they unfold any distinguishing privilege, or fundamental doctrine of the gospel: so it is here, the apostle is tracing our salvation up to its source, the love of God, but he also refers to the channel through which it flows, and that is Christ.

III. We must glance at the original source. It is according to the “riches of His grace.” Everything that God has done for sinners, shows us that He is a God of grace; but more especially in the coming of Christ, and in His elevation upon the cross, do we see the “riches of His grace.” This surely ought to encourage sinners to draw near to God; “that “they may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Essex Remembrancer.)

Redemption by the blood of Jesus

I. The certainty with which Christ has, in point of pact, redeemed His people.

1. Show how we came to need redemption.

2. Christ Jesus, as Mediator, at a certain period of this world’s history, gave Himself a ransom for His people.

II. I come now to mention some of the properties of that redemption with which Christ redeems His people.

1. It is free or unmerited on the part of man.

2. A full redemption.

3. This redemption takes effect in time.

4. This redemption is for eternity.

5. Redemption by Jesus implies that we could not redeem ourselves.

It is a law in nature that like produces like; and if it be once settled that our progenitors were corrupted and depraved, and at the same time granted that we are descended from them, the contrary of which is self-contradictory; then as sure as the corrupted fountain sends forth a polluted stream, so sure are we backward to that which is good, and forward to that which is evil. And sooner may the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots--which would be nature inverting nature’s course, for it is natural for them to be as they are--than can man who is born of a woman cease to do evil, and learn to do well. I shall now conclude this discourse with a few remarks, by way of improvement.

1. From this subject learn the high privilege of the children of men to be redeemed by the blood of Christ (1 John 3:1). Redemption is doubly endeared to man by the love of God, and by the sufferings of Jesus.

2. From this subject learn the duty of Christian diligence (2 Peter 3:14).

3. Learn from what has been said, that the end of refusing this redemption is eternal death (Isaiah 30:33).

4. From this subject learn the blessedness of the redeemed h Corinthians 2:19). (R. Montgomery.)

Redemption

The expression “redemption” as direct and immediate reference to our ruined and wretched condition in consequence of the fall; and it is used to signify our entire deliverance from all the evils involved or implied in our being sinners against God under His righteous and holy law. It is a term which comprehends our complete emancipation from sin and its consequences.

1. In the first place, and most important of all, he is a guilty being, because he is a sinner.

2. Man through sin has become habituated to sin. He is incarcerated in a prison house of sinful vices and habits, and held fast by legal chains of spiritual wickedness. Now, from its actual slavery, we are redeemed by Christ, in consequence of His atonement, and by virtue of His gracious Spirit. “Ye are not under the law, but under grace; sin, therefore, shall not have dominion over you.”

3. We must consider all the outward and physical evils which sin has brought into the world, of which death may be said to be the climax. From all these, however sad and melancholy, “redemption” effects a substantial deliverance now, whilst we have to battle against them, and a complete and glorious riddance at last, in our recovery from the grave. The first thing to be effected in the case of sinners under a sovereign God and a righteous law, is to remove their guilt, that they may stand free from all blame worthiness, and become exempt from the curse. But, this effected, the rest may be expected certainly and surely to follow, from the same grace and mercy which have already been brought into exercise. “The forgiveness of sins” is just a way of expressing the idea that all guilt whatsoever is removed; so that the sinner stands before God, in the eye of His law, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing. In the completeness of this forgiveness, we recognize its highest excellence; for did but one sin remain against the sinner, that alone were sufficient to condemn him. As by one sin man originally fell, so, if but one were to abide unforgiven, he could not be raised up again. But, blessed be God! “the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin.” It is not by a system of moral recovery; it is not merely by truth, that you are redeemed. A prior difficulty must be surmounted, and that could only be accomplished by the surrender of His well-beloved.

But we are redeemed by blood--by the sufferings of Jesus Christ--by His atoning sacrifice.

1. This wondrous plan is God’s own device or method. It originated in Him--in His love and wisdom.

2. The sacrifice was offered up freely by Christ. He gave Himself. He had power to lay down His life and He had power to take it up again. But He said, “Lo! I come. I delight to do Thy will, O My God.” “Christ also hath loved us, and gave Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savour.”

3. The offering was accepted by God as a full satisfaction for the sins of His people. (W. Alves.)

Redemption through Christ’s blood, with royal forgiveness

I. Redemption only through Christ’s blood.

1. What is redemption? Ransom or deliverance. It is love, mercy, grace, and glory--all in one.

2. Illustrate this great Christian doctrine by a few examples.

3. Now, can anyone tell me of the soul-thrilling delight of a person thus rescued from slavery, from galling bondage, from impending death. The sailor on London Bridge, of whom I once heard, may shadow its joys. He purchased a large cage full of birds, and went to the riverside; then he took from the cage one bird after another, and let it fly in the golden light of heaven, rejoicing in its sudden freedom with a sweet note or song of joy. When remonstrated with for spending his money so foolishly, he said, quietly: “Wait a little. I have reason for this--to give happiness to these birds!” And when all the cage was empty, he turned round triumphantly, with a bright eye, and said: “I was once a captive myself in bondage, in a strange land. I vowed, if I got freedom, to give liberty to the first captives I found at home. The birds have got it, and my heart rejoices in the deed!” But how burning must be the emotions of a man rescued from instant death by some unforeseen deliverance! Redemption commands our highest gratitude; more gratitude than rescue from death by water or fire by some powerful arm. Dr. Doddridge once obtained a pardon from the sovereign for a prisoner condemned to death. He went himself to the convict’s cell, and presented it to the unhappy man. He fell at the feet of the Doctor, and said, with deep feeling; “Sir, I am yours ever; every drop of my blood is yours; it thanks you for having mercy on me; all my life is yours!” Such, indeed, must be the deathless gratitude of a soul saved, to Christ the Lord for His great work of redemption, which infinitely transcends all deliverance here!

4. Remark how this great work was effected; it is redemption by His blood. He who is both God and man, shed His blood for sinners, obtaining for us redemption, pardon, sanctification, and salvation.

II. Free forgiveness of all sin by Christ alone.

III. The absolute fulness of Divine blessings. (J. G. Angley, M. A.)

Errors with respect to the doctrine of the Atonement

I. The Atonement has frequently been represented as if it was intended to pacify the wrath of an offended, an angry, and a displeased Creator. It is very true that the Scriptures do describe God as in the exercise of wrath banishing men from His presence; but it is equally true that the Scriptures must be taken in many instances as employing metaphorical and figurative language, which we are bound to interpret upon the principles of metaphorical and figurative interpretation. If we overlook these principles, and take every term literally and every phrase literally, we shall be found to misrepresent the whole wilt of God, and the whole system of our common Christianity. But if we take the wrath of God, as it is mentioned in the Scriptures, to indicate nothing more than the course of just punishment which it inflicts--if we understand that He is described to be wrathful when He does that which we do when we are wrathful, putting forth His power to punish, but doing it under principles very different from those under which we act--we may then have a right view of what is meant by the wrath of God. It means nothing more, in the Scripture, than His displeasure with sin--His disapprobation of all that is impure and all that is unholy--His sentence against all that is morally unclean, and His rejection of all that would pollute His government.

II. The Redeemer is frequently represented as suffering precisely the degree of punishment due to the parties whom He came to redeem. We forget altogether the dignity of the Atonement of Christ, when we speak thus of the degree of suffering that He had to endure. It was because the Redeemer was God as well as Man, that His suffering was infinitely valuable; and not because He sustained exactly the measure of suffering which His people ought to have endured. Such a mercantile, such a commercial mode of viewing the Atonement of Christ is unknown to the Scriptures of truth. An exact payment for the required discharge is not known to the glorious economy of the gospel. A sacrifice of infinite value was given, no matter what the amount of the sufferings; and from its infinite value those sufferings, however light or however severe, must derive all their value and all their efficacy. We rejoice in resting upon the Atonement of the Son of God; not in resting on the blood of one who suffered as much as we had to suffer.

III. Again, it is sometimes said that Christ came into the world for the purpose of dying for particular persons, to the exclusion of all others. This is another idea connected with the Atonement. Here, again, we find a variety of evil consequences resulting from error. Tell an assembled multitude that Christ came to die for particular persons, and that all others were to be excluded from the range of His Atonement; and would not any thinking assembly say: “Then if we were of that number we must be redeemed, for He died for us; if we were not of that number it is useless for us to attempt to share the privilege.” What answer could we give to this? But when we come to the Word of God, we find no foundation for this.

IV. But again, in the fourth place, another error connected with the doctrine of Atonement is, that it was intended to introduce a relaxed administration of government; that, in other words, it was intended to bring before the world a remedial system--a subdued, a modified demand on the obedience of mankind, and that it was intended to make the law of more easy aspect to persons that had fallen, and that if they could not come up to its requirements, the efficacy of the Atonement would make up for their deficiency, and that in that case they might themselves be saved by doing the best they could, the Atonement supplying their lack of service. Now the Word of God contains nothing of this description. “Heaven and earth shall pass away,” says the Redeemer; “but one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” The New Testament admits of no relaxation of the law of God. When the Redeemer demands the obedience of His people, He says: “Be ye perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”

V. Another error is this: “that the atonement of Christ was intended to abolish the obligation to obey the moral law. But what does such a doctrine as this really teach us? It teaches us that the moral law was broken, and it teaches us that God sent His own Son to be an Atonement, not to mend the breach, but to justify the breach I

VI. The Atonement is very frequently so misrepresented, as if deity had suffered. Such a notion never belonged to Christianity, although it has very often been advanced with reference to the Atonement of Christ. Then, if the Deity could not suffer, what did suffer? The perfect humanity of Christ. What gave efficacy to the sufferings of that humanity? Its union with the Deity of Christ. The union of the humanity of Christ with His divinity, gave to all His acts and all His sufferings an infinite value; and from that union, and that union alone, must be derived all the efficacy and all the glory of the Atonement; and the efficacy and glory of the Atonement will be found to be abundant, when connected with the union of the perfect humanity of Christ and the infinite glory of His Divine nature. We are wrong, therefore, in speaking of the sufferings of God. We are misrepresenting the Atonement of Christ.

VII. But without adding any more of the errors that may be current upon this subject (and I think I have embraced the principal part of them), it is due now to you that, in a few moments, I should state to you what i conceive to be the real character of the atonement. Let us look, first, at the nature of sin itself. What is it but the direct violation of the law of God? Here is the Majesty of heaven, the great Lawgiver; here is the perfect law that He reveals; He demands perfect obedience from the creature; we rebel against that demand; we are at variance with Him on the ground of that rebellion. What is to be done to heal the breach that has taken place between us? He is a God of love as well as a God of power and justice; He is willing to save, but He must do it in a way that will not encourage human rebellion. He seeks that His own hands shall be free to be gracious; He seeks that His own law shall permit Him to be merciful; He seeks that the perfection of His own purity shall permit Him to be kind, without for a moment sinking the character and the rectitude of His administration. How is He to be placed in a position in which He can honourably, and without disparagement to the public law of the universe, tell a man that he can be saved? He desires to tell him this; but He desires to find means to vindicate that act. He turns to His own Son; and the Son volunteers to accept the service assigned to Him. Volunteering to accept it, we find Him going forth, taking upon Him our nature, in that nature suffering and dying, and presenting Himself, not to man but to God. The priest presented the sacrifice on the altar to the Majesty of Israel; the sacrifice had direct reference to God--the mercy had reference to the people. In the same way the sacrifice presented in the Atonement of Christ has reference Go God; it is to Him that its incense, its perfume arises; the mercy has reference to us. The sacrifice, therefore, is presented to the King of kings that He may be able, consistently and worthily and holily, to proclaim mercy through the blood of the Lord Jesus. He looks to no specific individuals; He looks to no specific sins; He looks to the altar--the Cross where the Redeemer died. God looks to that sacrifice, and He sees in that sacrifice the means by which He can be vindicated in the proclamation of His kindness throughout the world, in the announcement of His love, in the extension of His mercy. Now His hands are free; His law is “magnified and made honourable,” and yet He can condescend to be gracious. We can now “have redemption through the blood of Christ, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” There is now ample scope made for free and sovereign grace to proclaim its readiness to be merciful. No one can point to the Cross and say, “The offering there made was for me”; no individual can point to the Cross and say, “There the anger of the Father against me was appeased, and I may approach and find Him gracious”; no, but the Father Himself looks down upon the Cross, and lifting the light of His countenance on the wondrous offering of His own Son in His own love, and the love of the Father concurring in accepting that offering, He looks round on the whole human race, and says: “Behold the measure of My love, and behold at the same time the vindication of My justice, while I proclaim My mercy, and invite all to come.” This view of the Atonement makes it a great sacrifice to public justice; and when I speak of a sacrifice to public justice, I speak of justice as vindicated before the whole universe. Why do I call it public justice? Do not the angels of heaven look to it? Do not the angels of hell look to it? Do they not expect to see God consistent with what He has proclaimed? Does not the whole intelligent universe look to it? Will not the whole assembled creation at the day of judgment look to it? Is it not, then, public justice? And is it not necessary for God to have a vindication ready when He assembles the intelligent universe? He has it ready--He has it ready now--a satisfaction to public justice and public law; and now grace can invite all the sinners of mankind, and accept every returning transgressor. (John Burnet.)

Gratitude for redemption

A gentleman, visiting a slave mart, was deeply moved by the agony of a slave girl, who had been delicately reared, and fearing lest she should fall into the hands of a rough and unkind master, inquired her price, paid it to the slave dealer; then, placing the bill of sale in her own hands, announced to her that she was free, and could now go home. The poor slave girl could not realize the change at first; but, running after her redeemer, cried out: “He has redeemed me! he has redeemed me! Will you let me be your servant?” How much more should we serve Him who has redeemed us from sin, and death, and hell?

God’s motives in redemption

How should we extol and adore the wisdom which discovered a way to harmonize the glory of a holy God and the good of guilty men! In the salvation of the human family God was undoubtedly moved by a regard to both these ends, It is an imperfect vision that sees but one motive here. This subject may be compared to those binary stars which seem to the naked eye but one, yet, when brought into the range of the telescope, resolve themselves into two distinct and shining orbs, that roll in brightness and beauty around a common, but invisible, centre, Though He loved His own glory, yet He “so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son,” that by Him the world might be redeemed from perdition. (T. Guthrie, D. D.)

Effects of redemption

A few years ago I was going away to preach one Sunday morning, when a young man drove up in front of us. He had an aged woman with him. “Who is that young man?” I asked. “Do you see that beautiful meadow,” said my friend, “and that land there with the house upon it?” “Yes.” “His father drank that all up,” he said. Then he went on to tell me all about him. His father was a great drunkard, squandered his property, died, and left his wife in the poorhouse. “And that young man,” he said, “is one of the finest young men I ever knew. He has toiled hard and earned money, and bought back the land; he has taken his mother out of the poorhouse, and now he is taking her to church.” I thought, that is an illustration for me. The first Adam, in Eden, sold us for nought; but the Messiah, the Second Adam, came and bought us back again. The first Adam brought us to the poorhouse, as it were; the Second Adam makes us kings and priests unto God. (D. L. Moody.)

Redemption through the blood of Christ

I dare assert, without fear of successful contradiction, that the inspired writers attribute all the blessings of salvation to the precious blood of Jesus Christ. If we have redemption it is through His blood; if we are justified, it is by His blood; if washed from our moral stains, it is by His blood, which cleanseth us from all sin; if we have victory over the last enemy, we obtain it not only by the Word of the Divine testimony, bus through the blood of the Lamb; and if we gain admittance into heaven, it is because we “have washed our robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb, and therefore are we before the throne of God.” Everything depends on the blood of Christ, and “without shedding of blood is no remission.” (R. Newton.)

The forgiveness of sins.

Forgiveness and redemption

God’s forgiveness is, so to speak, the preliminary grace, which enables the beginning of a new life, so that we become holy and loving children. Forgiveness is the prerogative of him who has been sinned against. “Who can forgive sins save God only?” He forgives on grounds sufficient in the estimation of His own righteous love. He cannot be coerced or coaxed into forgiveness. He cannot forgive until He sees it right to forgive. He cannot connive at the sinner being let off, if righteousness demands that he should suffer penalty. Nothing can be weaker or more immoral than to represent God as moved merely by pity, by a merciful compassion. That He is infinitely pitiful and loving is the uniform representation of Scripture. But His love works in a far profounder and holier and greater way than by mere pitiful feeling. He Himself “gave the only begotten Son” to redeem us, to die as a sacrifice for sins, that He might righteously forgive, that He might be “a just God and yet a Saviour.” The entire representation is of God’s love as the moving cause of Christ’s mission and redeeming work. Christ is given by the leather to redeem us--that is, as the apostle here explains it, to obtain for us the forgiveness of sins. Sin is not a misfortune, a necessity of our nature--it is a guilty act. We need not sin; we wilfully sin: and before we can become loving children of God, our sin must be forgiven. This is the first step in our redemption; forgiveness is made possible for us, is obtained for us by Jesus Christ. The further phrase “redemption through His blood,” shuts us up to the idea that the shedding of His blood by Christ, was that which made forgiveness a possible thing. It is only natural that men should ask, How, in what way, did the death of Christ constitute a propitiatory sacrifice for the sins of men? Such questions have been asked from the beginning of Christianity, and have in a hundred ways been answered in creeds and in systems of theology. These are purely human conceptions of the great fact which the New Testament affirms, and they have continuously changed as the spiritual intelligence of the Church has grown. Perhaps no one could now be found capable of entertaining the gross notions of the earlier and middle ages of Christianity. Whatever theory we may form, it must be taken only as our fallible human idea. The fact of the great sacrifice for sin is authoritatively affirmed; very little is said in explanation of what we may call the philosophy of it. That it had an aspect Godward, that it is the ground or reason of God’s forgiveness of sins, we are expressly told. And that it has an aspect manward, that it is a moral constraint upon human feeling, “the power of God unto salvation” is equally affirmed. “Lifted up from the earth, He draws all men unto Him.” One or two things may be said. Christ suffered, of course, as a man--a perfectly holy man, suffering for human sin as if He Himself had sinned. To enable this He became incarnate. He was “made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death.” It is clear that He did not suffer to appease any implacable feeling in God--to incline God to save. Every representation of Scripture is of God’s yearning pity and love. His love was the origin, the cause, of Christ’s Incarnation--He “spared not His only-begotten Son, but freely delivered Him up for us all.” That God is angry with sin is only to say that He is a Holy Being. If God can delight in the holiness of His creatures, He must hate their sin. He is not a passionless Being, incapable of feeling. How could He be loved if He were? No expressions can be stronger than those which represent God’s feeling towards sin. “He is angry with the wicked every day”; “The wrath of God abideth upon him”; “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness,” for those that “obey unrighteousness there is indignation and wrath.” We are “saved from wrath through Him.” We are by nature “children of wrath”; “the wrath of God cometh upon the children of disobedience.” That God was not angry with His well-beloved Son needs not be said, save that this, too, is a misrepresentation that the rejectors of the Atonement are not ashamed to persist in. “Therefore doth the Father love Me, because I lay down My life for the sheep.” That Jesus Christ ever thought the Father angry with Him it is impossible to think. When, in the extreme anguish of His spirit, He felt as if His Father had forsaken Him, He immediately added: “Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit.” Was not His anguish simply the vivid realization by His human heart of what human sin was? If any of us had a brother or a sister, a father or a mother, who committed a murder, would not our anguish at the crime be greater than even that of the murderer himself, just in proportion as his heart was murderous and ours was humane? Many a father, many a mother, feels infinitely more anguish for the sin of a profligate son, of a fallen daughter, than the sinner himself. May not this suggestion help us to understand the agony of the garden and of the cross? (H. Allen, D. D.)

The glories of forgiving grace

The forgiveness of sins is an article in the creed, but I want it to be a substantive in your lives. Most men say that they believe it, but their belief is often nominal, and a nominal faith, like nominal wealth, only makes the absence of the reality the more deplorable. In two instances there is clearly no faith in forgiven sin.

1. Those who have never felt that they are sinful. How can he who does not believe in the existence of sin believe in the forgiveness of it? His whole confession on that matter belongs to the region of fiction. If sin is not a terrible fact to you, pardon will never be more than a notion.

2. Those who know the guilt of sin, but are not yet able to believe in the Lord Jesus for the remission of their transgressions. They need to be admonished as Luther was by the godly old monk. When he was greatly distressed under conviction of his guilt, the aged man said, “Didst thou not say this morning in the creed, ‘I believe in the forgiveness of sins‘?” Oh, be not theoretical believers. You believe in sin, believe also in its pardon. Let the one be as much a truth as the other.

I. From the text we learn the measure of forgiveness.

1. Observe, then, that the measure of forgiveness is the riches of God’s grace, and this statement leads us to observe that it is not the character or person of the offender which is the measure of mercy, but the character of the offended One. Is there not rich consolation in this undoubted fact? The pardon to be hoped for is not to be measured by you and what you are, but by God and what He is. One man will forgive a grievous wrong, while another will not overlook a wry word. Take an instance from English history: John had most villainously treated his brother Richard in his absence. Was it likely that when he of the lion’s heart came home he would pass over his brother’s grievous offence? If you look at John, villain that he was, it was most unlikely that he should be forgiven; but then, if you consider the brave, high-souled Richard, the very flower of chivalry, you expect a generous deed. Base as John was, he was likely to be forgiven, because Richard was so free of heart, and accordingly pardon was right royally given by the great-hearted monarch. Had John been only half as guilty, if his brother Richard had been like himself he would have made him lay his neck on the block. If John had been Richard and Richard had been John, no matter how small the offence, there would have been no likelihood of pardon at all. So is it in all matters of transgression and pardon. You must take the offence somewhat into account, it is true, but not one half so much as the character of the person who has been offended. Let us establish this fact, and then see what light it throws upon the probability of pardon to any of you who are seeking it. With whom are you dealing? You have offended--who is He whom you have offended? Is it one whose anger is quickly aroused? No, the Lord is long suffering, and exceedingly patient. Forty years long was He grieved with one generation; and many a time did He pity them and remove His wrath from them.

2. Since the forgiveness of sins is “according to the riches of His grace,” then it is not according to our conceptions of God’s mercy, but according to that mercy itself, and the riches of it. God’s love is not to be measured by a mercer’s yard, nor His mercy to be weighed in the balances of the merchant.

3. If, again, the measure of mercy is “according to the riches of His grace,” then no limit to pardon can be set by the amount of human sin which can be forgiven. Sin is no trifle, and yet pardon is no impossibility.

4. Another comfortable conclusion follows from this, that no limit is set to the time in which a man has sinned, so as to bound the reach of grace by the lapse of years. Our text does not say that there is forgiveness of sins according to such and such a time of life, but “according to the riches of His grace.”

5. Let me draw another inference. If pardon be “according to the riches of His grace,” it is not according to the bitterness of the sorrow which has been felt by the sinner. There is a notion abroad that we must pass through a period of keen remorse before we can expect to be accepted with God.

6. And let me say that the measure of God’s forgiveness is not even the strength of a man’s faith. The measure of God’s forgiveness is “according to the riches of His grace.” You, dear soul, are to come and trust in what Jesus Christ did when He bled away His life for sinners, and then your pardon shall be measured out to you, not according to the greatness and strength of your confidence, but according to the immeasurable mercy of the heart of God. You may have faith but as a grain of mustard seed, your faith may only dare to touch the garment’s hem of the great Saviour, you may get no further than to say, “He hath said, ‘Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out,’ and I do come to Him: if I perish, I will perish trusting Him,” and yet that faith will save you. Thy sins which are many are all forgiven thee if thou believest in Jesus; for the measure of thy forgiveness is not thy faith, nor thy tears of repentance, nor thy bitter regrets, nor thy sin, nor thy conception of God’s goodness, nor thy character, either past or present or future; but the forgiveness which is granted from the Lord is “according to the riches of His grace.”

II. The manner of forgiveness.

1. Absolute freeness. “According to the riches of His free favour,” for that is the meaning of the word “grace.” God forgives none because of payment made by them in any form. If we could bring Him mountains of gold and silver, they would be nothing worth to Him. Forgiveness, like love, is unpurchaseable by us. God’s pardons are absolutely free.

2. Royal ease. When you and I give away money to the poor, we have to pause, and see how much is left in our purse; we have to calculate our incomes to see whether we may not be spending too much in charity; but those who have great riches can give and not calculate: even so God when He grants forgiveness gives it “according to the riches of His grace.” He never has to think whether He will have grace enough left; He will be none the richer if He withholds it, none the poorer if He bestows it. There is a magnificent ease about the benefactions of God: He scatters the largesse of His mercy right and left with unstinted liberality. The Roman conquerors, traversing the Via Sacra in triumph, were accustomed to scatter gold and silver with both hands as they rode along, and the eager crowd gathered up the shower of gifts. Our Lord, when He ascended on high and led captivity captive, scattered gifts among men with royal splendour and munificence.

3. Unquestionable fulness. The blood of Jesus makes us whiter than snow, and absolute innocence cannot be more white than that.

4. Irreversible certainty. “No condemnation.”

5. Unfailing renewal. Daily forgiveness for daily sin, a flesh spring rising for fresh thirst.

III. The manifestation of this pardon.

1. Forgiveness of sin comes to us entirely through Jesus Christ our Saviour; and if we go to Jesus Christ, fixing our eyes especially upon His atoning sacrifice, we have pardon by virtue of His blood. Pardon by any other means is impossible, but by Jesus Christ it is certain. Everything else fails, but faith in Christ never fails.

2. This pardon is a possession. “We have” it. No longer is the weight and burden of sin lying on your conscience and heart: your load is lifted; you are forgiven. If your child has been offending you, and you are angry with him, he feels ill at ease in your presence. At last you say, “My boy, it is all gone now; do not offend again. You are quite forgiven; come here, and let me kiss you.” Does he reply, “Father, I am afraid”? If so, it is evident that he does not understand that you have forgiven him: and even if he receives your kiss, but still remains unhappy in your presence, it is clear that he does not believe in you or in the sincerity of your forgiveness. As soon as the light dawns on his mind “Father has quite put all my fault away,” then he is merry in his play and easy in his conversation with you. Now, be with God like a child at home. Do not act towards Him as if still He frowned upon you. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The forgiveness of sins

The earlier verses of this chapter contain Paul’s conception of the Divine ideal of human nature. It was the Divine purpose “before the foundation of the world” that men should share the life and sonship of the eternal Son of God. It was for this that human nature received its wonderful capacities. Its sanctity and righteousness were to be secured by union with Christ. The human race was to be a great spiritual organism, having Christ for the root of its life and blessedness. Abiding in Christ, the race was to abide in God; and only by abiding in Christ could the race achieve the perfection and glory for which it was created. But the Divine purpose did not suppress human freedom. It could be fulfilled only by the free concurrence of the race with the Divine righteousness and love; and the whole order of the development of the Divine thought has been disturbed by sin. In His infinite goodness God has delivered us from the immense catastrophe which came upon us through our revolt against His authority. In Christ we have redemption and forgiveness.

I. What forgiveness is not.

1. Forgiveness is not a change in our minds towards God, but a change in God’s mind towards us. Take an illustration. A son has been guilty of flagrant misconduct towards his father; has insulted him, slandered his character, robbed him, and almost ruined him. The son discovers his guilt and is greatly distressed. He does all he can to atone for his wickedness. He has become a better man, and there is a great change in his mind and conduct towards his father. But it is possible for all the change to be on one side. He may be unable to remove or even to lessen his father’s indignation against him. His father may continue for years bitter, relentless, unforgiving. I do not mean to suggest that God will be hard with us when we repent; but if we are to have any clear and true thoughts about this subject we must see distinctly that it is one thing for us to repent of sin and to become better, and quite another thing for God to forgive us.

2. Nor must the Divine forgiveness be confounded with peace of conscience. I have known many people who were restless and unhappy, dissatisfied with themselves, and unable to find any rest of heart in the Divine mercy. The reason was plain: they were not troubled by the Divine hostility to their sin, and therefore the assurance that God was willing to forgive them afforded them no relief. It was not God’s thoughts about them that occasioned their distress, but their own thoughts about themselves. They did not want to obtain the Divine forgiveness, but to recover their own self-respect, which had been wounded by the discovery of their moral imperfections. But it is clearly one thing for God to be at peace with us, and quite a different thing for us to be at peace with ourselves.

3. We must not suppose that as soon as God forgives us we escape at once from the painful and just consequences of our sins. The sins may be forgiven, and yet many of the penalties which they have brought upon us may remain. There is a certain alliance between the laws of nature and the laws of righteousness, and there is a similar alliance between the natural laws of society and the laws of righteousness. No Divine act arrests the operation of the natural laws which punish the penitent for his former drunkenness. There are vices, such as flagrant lying, gross treachery, deliberate dishonesty, which involve a man in heavy social penalties. He does not escape these penalties when he repents of the vices and receives the Divine pardon. He is maimed for life. His chances are lost. He will recover with difficulty the confidence of even kindly and generous men. Positions of public trust and honour will be closed against him, He will be excluded from many kinds of usefulness.

II. What it is for God to forgive sins.

1. Forgiveness among ourselves implies that there has been just resentment against the person whom we forgive, resentment provoked by his wrongdoing. When we forgive him the resentment ceases. And so also does God regard, not with disapproval only, but with resentment, those who sin; and when He forgives men, His resentment ceases.

2. When God forgives, He actually remits our sin. Our responsibility for it ceases. The guilt of it is no longer ours. When His resentment against us ceases, the eternal law of righteousness ceases to be hostile to us. When He pardons our transgressions, the eternal law of righteousness no longer holds us responsible for them. The shadow which they had projected across our life, and which lengthened with our lengthening years, passes away. We look back upon the sins which God has forgiven and we condemn them still, but the condemnation does not fall upon ourselves; for God, who is the living law of righteousness, condemns us no longer.

3. The peace and blessedness of this release from guilt are wonderful. The soul is conscious of a Divine freedom. It can approach God with happy trust and with perfect courage, for the past is no longer a source of terror, and the future is bright with immortal hope. (R. W. Dale, LL. D.)

Forgiveness defined

Forgiveness may be defined--

1. In personal terms--as a cessation of the anger or moral resentment of God against sin.

2. In ethical terms--as a release from the guilt of sin, which oppresses the conscience.

3. In legal terms--as a remission of the punishment of sin, which is eternal death. (R. W. Dale, LL. D.)

The forgiveness of sin and the death of Christ

That our Lord Jesus Christ declared that men were to receive redemption or the remission of sins through Himself, and especially through His death, appears from several passages in the Gospels; and the great place which His last sufferings occupied in His thoughts from the very commencement of His ministry, the frequency with which He spoke of them, the wonderful results which He said were to follow them, the agitation and dismay which He felt as they approached, and His anxiety to pass through them and beyond them, show that to Christ His death was not a mere martyrdom but an awful and glorious crisis in His own history and in the history of the human race. The apostles Peter, Paul, and John, though each had his own characteristic conception of the work of Christ and the Christian salvation, are agreed in declaring that the ground of our forgiveness is in Christ, and they are also agreed in attributing a mysterious importance and efficacy to His death (2 Corinthians 5:14; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 4:25; 1 Corinthians 15:3; Galatians 1:4; 1 Peter 3:18; 1 Peter 2:24; 1 John 2:2; 1 John 4:10; 1 John 1:7; 1 Thessalonians 5:9; Romans 5:8; Romans 3:24-26). But no collection of isolated passages gives an adequate impression of the strength of the proof that both our Lord and His apostles taught that in Him “we have our redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses according to the riches of [God’s] grace.” This truth is wrought into the very substance of the Christian gospel.

I. We have the forgiveness of our trespasses “in Christ.” It is in harmony with the fundamental law of human nature that the reason and ground of our forgiveness should be in Christ; for the reason and ground of our creation, of our righteousness, and of our blessedness as the sons of God, are in Him.

II. We have the forgiveness of our trespasses in Christ “through His blood.”

1. The relations of Christ to the Father are the transcendent expression and original root of our relation to the Father. We are related to the Father through Him. And since the relation of moral submission on our part to the righteousness of God’s resentment against sin was an indispensable condition of the forgiveness of sin, it became necessary that Christ Himself should assume this relation of moral submission to the righteousness of God’s resentment against sin, that His submission might be the transcendent expression of ours.

2. There is no righteousness in us which is not first in Christ. And since our submission to the righteousness of God’s resentment against sin was an indispensable condition of our forgiveness, Christ’s submission became necessary to render ours possible. His submission carries ours with it.

3. His death is the death of sin in all who are one with Him.

The forgiveness of sins

Forgiveness is much more than pardon. Pardon is not a New Testament word at all; it does not occur in the New Testament, only in the Old Testament. Pardon is only the remitting the punishment of sins; forgiveness goes deeper--it is the taking away the memory of sins; it is an act of the heart which cancels both the punishment and the sin itself. Both words, “pardon” from the French, and “forgiveness” from the English, or Saxon, both have in them the word “gift.” It is a gift. Both the remitting the penalty, and the banishment of the thought of the wrong thing that has been done out of the heart, both are a gift. But forgiveness is the greater gift; it is pardon and forgiveness as well, for if you are forgiven, the sin itself is divided from the person forgiven, as though it had never been. All that is wanted is to go for your forgiveness in a right state of mind. That state of mind means four things.

I. You must feel and confess that you have sinned--sinned against God. It is not enough to feel that you have sinned against man, or to your own injury: you must feel and own from the bottom of your heart that you have offended God. “Against Thee and Thee only have I sinned.”

II. You must have a sincere and holy resolve in you heart that you will not commit that sin any more; that you will lead a better and religious life. This resolve must be firm and earnest, with a deep sense of your own weakness and inability to keep the promise; but you are prepared to meet any sacrifice, and overcome all difficulties, God helping you.

III. You must come with the faith that God can, and will, and does forgive you, for the sake of Him who has already paid all your debt, and satisfied His justice.

IV. You must be in a state of forgiveness, forgiveness with all who have ever injured you. These four are the only prerequisites which God has laid down as necessary for the forgiveness of every sin. Besides these, not only you need not, you must not bring anything in your hand. No merit, no plea, but that you are a poor sinner, and that “God is love,” and that Christ has died for you and instead of you, and suffered your punishment. Can those forgiven sins ever rise up again? Never, never! See what God says upon that subject: “The scapegoat is borne away into a land not inhabited.” Who shall see them, or talk about them, where there is none to speak? “A land not inhabited.” They shall not be mentioned. They are nailed to the cross. They are dead and buried, and there is no resurrection to a forgiven sin. God has put them behind His back, where He cannot see them! Do you say I make it too easy? Would it not be presumptuous to believe in such an instant and complete forgiveness? Would there not be encouragements for the careless to go on and sin again, because they can again be so easily forgiven? Let me tell you what will be the effect. The feeling of that forgiveness, the wonderful surprise that you are forgiven; that God’s eye is on you; that you are His own dear child, and that you may, notwithstanding all the past, serve Him and please Him, and be happy in this world and go to heaven when you die; this will melt you to tears, it will melt your heart to tears. You will be so soft. Your penitence, after you feel forgiven, will be much deeper than before you were forgiven. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

Value of forgiveness

History relates the story of a many a sagacious and far-sighted man, whose example it is our safety, our salvation to follow. He had committed heinous crimes against his sovereign and the state. He knew his life to be forfeited; and that if, allowing events to take their course, he waited to be tried, he was certain to be condemned. The case is exactly ours. In these circumstances he repaired to the palace to fling himself at the feet of his sovereign, and making full confession of his crimes, to beg for mercy. Through the clemency of his king, and the intercession of a powerful friend at court, he found mercy; and, with a full pardon in his bosom, signed by the king’s own band, left the royal presence a happy man. In course of time, the day of trim arrives, gathering a great concourse of people. He repairs to the place. Ignorant of his secret, anxious friends tremble for his fate; and the spectators wonder at his calm and placid bearing as he passes the scaffold where they think he is so soon to die, and enters the court, certain, as they fancy, to be condemned. He steps up to the bar as lightly as a bridegroom to the marriage altar; and, to all men s surprise, looks boldly around, on the court, his judges, and his accusers. At this, however, they cease to wonder, when, after listening unmoved to charges enough to hang twenty men in the place of one, he thrusts his hand into his bosom to draw forth the pardon, to cast it on the table, and find himself, amid a sudden outburst of joy, locked in the happy embraces of his wife and children. Let us go and do likewise. The bar of Divine judgment is a place not to sue for mercy, but to plead it. Appearing there robed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ, justified, forgiven, in our hands a pardon signed and sealed with blood, we shall look around us undismayed on all the terrors of the scene -to ask with Paul, “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth; who is he that condemneth?” (T. Guthrie, D. D.)

According to the riches of His grace.--

The riches of God’s grace

I. The riches of God’s grace are illustrated by the nature and cause of these evils from which God is willing to redeem us. It is not misfortune we are suffering from, but guilt; the anger of God has not come upon us by accident; hell is not a mere calamity, the pains of eternal death are not undeserved. All the evils of our condition, from which God is eager to save us, are the result of our own fault. We have sinned; and the sin is regarded by God with deep and intense abhorrence. If a man whom you have trusted lies to you again and again, you fling him off from you with contempt. If you have detected a man whom you have trusted in an attempt to commit deliberative fraud upon you, you close your doors against him and forbid him ever to enter your house. If he be drunken, profane, and profligate, you think of him with disgust. And whatever abhorrence and loathing we may feet for gross sin, God, who is infinitely purer than we are, feels for all sin, and it is sin which has brought all our woes upon us. We have sinned, not ignorantly, but knowingly. We have sinned for years, and perhaps some of us are only now beginning to think of amendment. And yet to us sinners, to the guiltiest and most flagrant sinner among us, God offers redemption, and shows “the riches of His grace.”

II. The riches of His grace are illustrated in what He has none to effect our redemption. “Through the blood of Christ.” The Son of God, the Creator of our race, the moral Ruler of the universe, with whom it rested, when we had sinned, fully to express the Divine sense of the magnitude of our guilt, and to inflict the penalties which we deserved; laid His glory by, in order that He might endure the penalty instead of inflicting it, that He might express His sense of our sin by enduring death before He forgave it, instead of inflicting death on us because we had transgressed.

III. The conditions on which God offers salvation illustrate the riches of His grace. A free gift--the only condition being that we be willing to receive it. “Arise, and be free!” is Christ’s message to all.

IV. The very name by which the Christian revelation is known illustrates this. It is not called a system or doctrine, else it might be necessary to master the doctrine before you could secure redemption. It is not a moral but a spiritual discipline, else it might be necessary that you should subject yourself to its vivifying and invigorating power before redemption could be yours. It is not a law, else you would have to obey it before its promises could be fulfilled. It is not a promise of redemption, nor an assurance that God is willing to accomplish your redemption, else there might be conditions attached to the promise by which you might be perplexed and hindered. No; but it is a gospel--good news from heaven to earth, from God to man; good news of the Divine love which anger against sin has not quenched; good news of a great redemption wrought out in us; good news that God through Christ is nigh at hand and eager to forgive sins; good news that everything that is necessary to complete our salvation God has actually conferred upon us through Christ Jesus our Lord, and that we have only to receive it in order to rejoice in eternal blessedness.

V. The concern God has shown about our salvation illustrates the riches of His grace. We sometimes speak of those who are seeking God. The New Testament speaks of God seeking us. The Good Shepherd goes out into the wilderness after the sheep that has gone astray, before there is any terror felt at its danger, or any desire on its part to return. This is God’s conduct towards us. Is it not so? Why is it that any of you are at this moment restless because of your guilt, alarmed because of your danger, and longing to find your way into the peace of God? Is it the result of strenuous and laborious effort of your own to discover whether or not you had incurred guilt and exposure to danger? Has it not all come to you, you know not how? And yet, when you begin to consider, you conclude that it has been awakened in your heart by God. Can you be so ungrateful for His persistent love? (R. W. Dale, LL. D.)

The treasure of grace

I. First, consider the riches of His grace. In attempting to search out that which is unsearchable, we must, I suppose, use some of those comparisons by which we are wont to estimate the wealth of the monarchs, and mighty ones of this world. It happened once that the Spanish ambassador, in the halcyon days of Spain, went on a visit to the French ambassador, and was invited by him to see the treasures of his master. With feelings of pride he showed the repositories, profusely stored with earth’s most precious and most costly wealth. “Could you show gems so rich,” said he, “or aught the like of this for magnificence of possessions in all your sovereign’s kingdom? Call your master rich?” replied the ambassador of Spain, “why, my master’s treasures have no bottom”--alluding, of course, to the mines of Peru and Petrosa. So truly in the riches of grace there are mines too deep for man’s finite understanding ever to fathom. However profound your investigation, there is still a deep couching beneath that baffles all research. As by necessity of His Godhead He is omnipotent, and omnipresent, so by absolute necessity of His Divinity is He gracious. Recollect, however, that as the attributes of God are of the like extent, the gauge of one attribute must be the gauge of another. Or, further, if one attribute is without limit, so is another attribute.

1. Now, you cannot conceive any boundary to the omnipotence of God. What cannot He do? He can create, He can destroy; He can speak a myriad universes into existence; or He can quench the light of myriads of stars as readily as we tread out a spark. As He hath power to do anything, so hath He grace enough to give anything--to give everything to the very chief of sinners.

2. Take another attribute if you please--God’s omniscience, there is no boundary to that. We know that His eye is upon every individual of our race--He sees him as minutely as if he were the only creature that existed. It is boasted of the eagle that though he can outstare the sun, yet when at his greatest height, he can detect the movement of the smallest fish in the depths of the sea. But what is this compared with the omniscience of God?

3. There is no limit to His understanding, nor is there to His grace. As His knowledge comprehendeth all things, so doth His grace comprehend all the sins, all the trials, all the infirmities of the people upon whom His heart is set. The next time we fear that God’s grace will be exhausted let us look into this mine, and then let us reflect that all that has ever been taken out of it has never diminished it a single particle. All the clouds that have been taken from the sea have never diminished its depth, and all the love, and all the mercy that God has given to all but infinite numbers of the race of man, has not diminished by a single grain the mountain of His grace. But, to proceed further; we sometimes judge of the wealth of men, not only by their real estate in mines and the like, but by what they have on hand stored up in the treasury. God’s treasury is His covenant of grace, wherein the Father gave His Son, the Son gave Himself, and the Spirit promised all His influence, all His presence, to all the chosen. This, my brethren, if ye think it over, may well make you estimate aright the riches of God’s grace. If you read the roll of the covenant from beginning to end, containing as it does, election, redemption, calling, justification, pardon, adoption, heaven, immortality--if you read all this, you will say, “This is riches of grace--God, great and infinite! Who is a God like unto Thee for the riches of Thy love!” The riches of great kings again, may often be estimated by the munificence of the monuments which they reared to record their feats. We have been amazed in these modern times at the marvellous riches of the kings of Nineveh and Babylon. Modern monarchs with all their appliances, would fail to erect such monstrous piles of palaces as those in which old Nebuchadnezzar walked in times of yore. We turn to the pyramids, we see there what the wealth of nations can accomplish; we look across the sea to Mexico and Peru, and we see the relics of a semi-barbarous people; but we are staggered and amazed to think what wealth and what mines of riches they must have possessed ere such works could have been accomplished. Solomon’s riches are perhaps best judged of by us when we think of those great cities which he built in the wilderness, Tadmore and Palmyra. When we go and visit those ruins and see the massive columns and magnificent sculpture, me say, Solomon indeed was rich. We feel as we walk amid the ruins somewhat like the Queen of Sheba, even in Scripture the half has not been told us of the riches of Solomon. My brethren, God has led us to inspect mightier trophies than Solomon, or Nebuchadnezzar, or Montezuma, or all the Pharaohs. Turn your eyes yonder, see that blood-bought host arrayed in white, surrounding the throne--hark, how they sing, with voice triumphant, with melodies seraphic, “Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever.” And who are these? Who are these trophies of His grace? Some of them have come from the stews of harlotry; many of them have come from the taverns of drunkenness. Nay, more, the hands of some of those so white and fair, were once red with the blood of saints. I see there Manasseh, who shed innocent blood so much, and the thief who in the last moment looked to Christ, and said, “Lord, remember me.” Now we turn to another point to illustrate the greatness of the riches of God’s grace. A man’s riches may often be judged of by the equipage of his children, the manner in which he dresses his servants and those of his household. It is not to be expected that the child of the poor man, though he is comfortably clothed, should be arrayed in like garments to those which are worn by the sons of princes. Let us see, then, what are the robes in which God’s people are apparelled, and how they are attended. Here, again, I speak upon a subject where a large imagination is needed, and my own utterly fails me. God’s children are wrapped about with a robe, a seamless robe, which earth and heaven could not buy the like of if it were once lost. For texture it excels the fine linen of the merchants; for whiteness it is purer than the driven snow; no looms on earth could make it, but Jesus spent His life to work my robe of righteousness. Look at God’s people as they are clothed too in the garments of sanctification. Was there ever such a robe as that? it is literally stiff with jewels. He arrays the meanest of His people every day as though it were a wedding day; He arrays them as a bride adorneth herself with jewels; He has given Ethiopia and Sheba for them, and He will have them dressed in gold of Ophir. What riches of grace, then, must there be in God who thus clothes His children! But to Conclude this point upon which I have not as yet begun. If you would know the full riches of Divine grace, read the Father’s heart when He sent His Son upon earth to die; read the lines upon the Father’s countenance when He pours His wrath upon His only begotten and His well-beloved Son. So much, then, concerning the riches of His grace.

II. For a minute or two, let me now dwell upon the forgiveness of sins. The treasure of God’s grace is the measure of our forgiveness; this forgiveness of sins is according to the riches of His grace. We may infer, then, that the pardon which God gives to the penitent is no niggard pardon. Again: if pardon be in proportion to the riches of His grace, we may rest assured it is not a limited pardon, it is not the forgiving of some sins and the leaving of others upon the back., No, this were not Godlike, it were not consistent with the riches of His grace. When God forgives He draws the mark through every sin which the believer ever has committed, or ever will commit.

III. And now I conclude by noticing the blessed privileges which always follow the forgiveness which is given to us according to the grace of God.

1. Peace of conscience. That heart of yours which throbs so fast when you are alone, will be quite still and quiet. When once a man is forgiven, he can walk anywhere; and, knowing his sins to be forgiven, he has joy unspeakable.

2. Then, to go further, such a man has access to God. Another man with unforgiven sin about him stands afar off; and it he thinks of God at all it is as a consuming fire.

3. Then another effect of this is that the believer fears no hell.

4. Once more, the forgiven Christian is expecting heaven. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The riches of God’s grace

In a country village if a man has a few hundred pounds he is thought to be quite rich. In a large town a man must have several thousands. But when you come to London and frequent the Stock Exchange you inquire of so and so--Is he a rich man? And someone will perhaps reply, “Yes, yes, he is worth a hundred thousand pounds.” Put the same question to a Rothschild with his millions, and he answers, “No! he is a little man: he is not rich: he only owns a hundred thousand pounds”; for these great bankers count their money by millions. Well, but what are these great Rothschilds with all their millions when they are reckoned up according to the wealth of heaven? The Lord alone is rich. God is so rich in mercy that you cannot tell how rich He is. His is overflowing riches, marvellous riches, exceeding riches. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

God abounds in grace

An indigent philosopher at the court of Alexander sought relief at the hand of that sovereign, and received an order on his treasurer for any sum he should ask. He immediately demanded ten thousand pounds. The treasurer demurred to the extravagant amount; but Alexander replied, “Let the money be instantly paid. I am delighted with this philosopher’s way of thinking: he has done me a singular honour. By the largeness of his request, he: shows the high opinion he has of my wealth and munificence.” Even so they do most honour God’s grace who remember that it abounds towards us. Abounding grace:--Payson, when he lay on his bed dying, said, “All my life Christ has seemed to me as a star afar off; but little by little He has been advancing and growing larger and larger, till now His beams seem to fill the whole hemisphere, and I am floating in the glory of God, wondering with unutterable wonder how such a mote as I should be glorified in His light.” But he came to that after a long life. (H. W. Beecher.)


Verse 8

Ephesians 1:8

Wherein He hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence.

God’s grace in redemption

I. From the words before us, the first observation we would make is that the grace of God in redemption is abundant grace--“Wherein He hath abounded toward us.” The term here used corresponds exactly with the idea expressed by the previous phrase, “the riches of His grace.” God is “rich in mercy” and “great in love.” By the abundant grace of God, and by that alone, are sinners saved. Riches or wealth is a relative thing, having relation to the individual’s actual wants and necessities, amid which he is placed. It is, in fact, that which is over and above, or which superabounds or overflows, after all actual wants have been supplied. From the greatness of the sacrifice which the grace of God made in order to our redemption, even the sacrifice of His own Son, we obtain a grand demonstration of the abundance of that grace, or its overflowing riches. In its original exercise--within the scope of those demands on its treasures which unsullied excellence makes--there is no need for any such sacrifice, but, on the contrary, it seems nothing but natural and every way easy and cheap, so to speak, for God to love and bless the lovely and the perfect. But, as it often happens that the prodigal son in a family costs his parents far more that all the rest in reclaiming him to the ways of decency and propriety, which they never forsook, and the strength of the parental love is tried and proved not so much by the ordinary exercise of it to the decent and well-ordered children of the household, as by its measures of an extraordinary kind in such an exceptional case as that referred to; so, in the redemption of lost sinners, we behold not merely grace, but riches of grace, in the amazing length to which it has gone, to reclaim the wanderers and bring them back to glory. In this, He hath surely given proof of an abundant grace, which is nowhere else to be met with in His vast dominions.

II. In the second place our text speaks of the revelation or manifestation of this abundant grace in and through the Gospel--“Abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known unto us the mystery of His will.” These words refer, in general, to the outward revelation of His grace which God hath made in the gospel, and also to the inward discovery or apprehension of that grace which God effects in the minds and hearts of believers.

1. How true is it that without an external and positive revelation man could never have attained to any certain or reliable knowledge of God as the Redeemer and Saviour of guilty man! At best the idea of such a God could only have been conjectural, leaving the mind in doubt and fear, since it is met by the opposite idea of God as the avenger of wrong--the punisher of sin.

2. But how true is it, also, that without the illuminations of grace, the Bible itself is of no avail! “The natural man receiveth not the things of God.”

3. Hence the line of our duty, as well as privilege, is clearly set before us. Study, then, that word with diligence and prayer; rely on the aids of God’s Spirit.

III. In the third place, we may briefly notice the last clause of the passage before us, as again bringing into view the sovereign good pleasure of God. Here it is yet more strikingly held forth, as the true and original cause of all our mercies. It is described as “His good pleasure which He hath purposed in Himself.”

1. This purpose is one of supreme sovereignty.

2. It is one of infinite benevolence.

3. It is one of all-sufficient power. (W. Alves, M. A.)

Grace from God

I. The important truth stated. God has caused His grace to abound in all wisdom and prudence.

1. In the formation of His plan (Ephesians 1:4-6).

2. In His conduct to us (1 John 4:10; Galatians 4:6; 2 Corinthians 4:7).

3. Suspending His justice in the acceptation of a Divine mediation (1 Timothy 2:5).

4. In the application of His grace (1 Corinthians 1:4).

5. In the instruments employed (1 Corinthians 1:27-28).

II. The means of communicating this grace. “Having made known unto us the mystery of His will.”

1. It was eternally concealed in the mind of God, and but faintly promulgated by types (Hebrews 10:1).

2. It is still concealed from many, both heathens and professed Christians (Isaiah 55:2).

3. It has mysteries which the enlarged mind of a Christian has not conceived (Romans 11:33).

4. The Christian feels more than he can express (1 Peter 1:8).

5. All this is made known to the soul by means of preaching (1 Corinthians 1:21).

III. The reason of this communication of grace. To show “His good pleasure, which He purposed in Himself.”

1. In giving us all things necessary to salvation (Ephesians 1:3).

2. The adoption of our souls (Ephesians 1:2).

3. The knowledge of forgiveness (Ephesians 1:7).

4. That His glory should be promoted in us and by us through Christ (Ephesians 1:12).

IV. The design of almighty God in the display of His grace by Christ. “That He might gather together,” etc.

1. It was to collect all God’s people (John 11:52).

2. To advance Christ’s honour. The one Head (Ephesians 5:23). He is the Head of confirmation to the angels, hence called “elect angels” (1 Timothy 5:21; Ephesians 1:22; 1 Peter 3:22; Hebrews 1:6).

3. The Head of representation to the Church; for the Church died, rose, obeyed, and suffered in Christ, and must finally live with Him (John 14:19).

4. He is the Head of influence; for as all nerves are connected with the brain, there is no motion in the body without this. And without Christ there is no light, exertion, taste, or sensibility (John 1:16).

5. The Spirit acts upon the soul, and shows what Christ has done for His people (John 16:14).

6. The Head of union between Jews and Gentiles (Ephesians 2:16).

V. The improvement.

1. From this subject we learn that infinite wisdom contrived the plan, and infinite prudence accomplished it.

2. What a high value should believers put upon Christ! For in Him the law and the gospel, the promises and the blessings, God and man, heaven and earth, are united.

3. What a high estimation ought we to have of the blessed gospel of Christ!

4. It shows us that human merit has nothing to do in moving God’s good pleasure to save our souls.

5. It further shows us how happy true Christians are privileged to be. (T. B. Baker.)

Saved by grace

I had long wished to be the bearer of life to some condemned cell. My wish was granted me. It was on a Tuesday that a poor sentenced criminal was to be hanged. He was within one day of the fatal drop. But on the Monday, all unexpectedly, I was summoned to take him his life! I had obtained a reprieve for that man--a paper signed by our gracious sovereign giving him back his forfeited life My first thought was, “Where is the train that can bear me swift enough to the cell?” Delay appeared cruel; until, at the very threshold of the prison, I bethought me thus--“How can I tell him? The man will die, so great will be the revulsion. He has died, so to speak. He is dead in law. And he is already in the bitterness of death.” So, with life in my hand, I stand before the victim in his cell. His face is wan, his knees feeble, his vacant eyes have no tears. “My poor man, can you read?” “Yes,” was the reply. Fearing to break the royal pardon to him too suddenly I added, “Would you like your life?” “Sir,” he responds, “do not trifle with me.” “But life is sweet--is it not?” “Sir, I would rather you would not speak to me.” “But would you not like me to procure your life?” “It is of no use, sir; I’m justly condemned. I’m a dead man.” “But the Queen could give you your life.” He looks inquiringly at me, but is silent. “Can you read this?” And now those hot eyes are directed down upon the paper. As he intently reads, putting my arm around his shoulders, I say, “There, my poor fellow, there is your life!” No sooner had I uttered the words than, as I expected, he dropped down at my feet. There he lay, as it were, dead! It was more than he could bear. (J. D. Smith.)

In all wisdom and prudence.

God’s gifts of wisdom and understanding

1. God gives pardon of sins to none to whom He has not first given wisdom and understanding. We must be made to understand before we can come to Christ. We must look before we can be healed.

2. True wisdom and understanding are gifts of God’s grace in Christ Jesus.

3. God gives wisdom and understanding plentifully to those whose sins He forgives. (Paul Bayne.)

Divine wisdom and prudence

The only difficulty in the words is, What is this wisdom and prudence spoken of? Whether it imply the wisdom of God, or the wisdom wrought in us by the Spirit in conversion? Many interpreters go for the last. The former, I suppose, is here meant, which is eminently discovered in the mysteries of the gospel (Romans 11:33, “Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!”). Surely it is not meant of wisdom in us; for how little a portion have we of true and heavenly wisdom. Now, the two words used: wisdom noteth the sublimity of the doctrine of the gospel, and prudence the usefulness of it. That in the dispensation of grace by Christ God hath showed great wisdom and prudence. When His grace overflowed to us, He showed therein not only His goodness, but His wisdom. Now, though we can easily yield to this assertion, yet to make it out needeth more skill. “The manifold wisdom of God” is better seen to angels than to us (Ephesians 3:10). They have more orderly understandings, whereas we are confused and dark. Yet to discover it to you in a few particulars, the grace of the Redeemer may be considered three ways.

1. As to the purchase and impetration of it by the Incarnation and death of the Son of God.

2. The publication of it in the gospel or covenant of grace.

3. The application of it to particular believers. In all these God hath shown great wisdom.

I. As to the purchase and impetration of grace by the death and incarnation of the Son of God.

1. There is wisdom in this, that in our fallen estate we should not come immediately to God without a mediator and reconciler. God is out of the reach of our commerce, being at such a distance from us and variance with us. The wise men of the world pitched on such a way (1 Corinthians 8:5-6).

2. That this Mediator is God in our nature.

3. That being m our nature, He would set us a pattern of obedience by His holy life; for He lived by the same laws that we are bound to live by.

4. That He should die the death of the cross to expiate our sins.

5. That after His death He should rise from the dead, and ascend into heaven to prove the reality of the life to come.

II. The publication of it in the Gospel or covenant of grace. The wisdom of God is seen--

1. In the privileges offered to us, which are pardon and life.

2. The terms He hath required of us.

(a) Partly in respect of God. For He having designed to glorify His mercy and free grace, and to make our salvation from first to last a mere gift, and the fruit of His love to us, hath appointed faith for the acceptance of this gift (Romans 4:16).

(b) As it is fittest to own Christ the Redeemer, the Fountain of life and happiness, and our Head and Husband, whom we receive, and to whom we are united and married by faith.

(c) With respect to the promises of the gospel, which offer to us a happiness and blessedness, spiritual, and for the most part future. Unseen things are properly objects of faith, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).

(d) It is fittest as to our future obedience, that it may be comfortable and willing. Now, we owning Christ in a way of subjection and dependence, and consenting to become His disciples and subjects, other duties come on the more easily (2 Corinthians 8:5).

(a) It is most for the honour of God that we should not be pardoned without submission, confession of past sin, and resolution of future obedience.

(b) The duty of the creature is best secured, and the penitent person more bound to future obedience, by the vow itself, or the bond of the holy oath into which he is entered, and the circumstances accompanying it, which surely induce a hatred of sin and a love of holiness.

(c) It is most for the comfort of the creature that a stated course of recovering ourselves into the peace and hope of the gospel should be appointed to us, which may leave the greatest sense upon our consciences. Then again, for continuance in the new covenant, and delightful obedience unto God. The remedy is not only suited to the disease, but the duty to the reward. Our duty is to know God and to love Him; and our reward is to see Him, and be like Him (1 John 3:2). There is a marvellous suitableness between the end and means, holiness and happiness, conformity to God, and our communion with Him; the holiness required of us now, and the happiness we expect hereafter; perfect conformity and uninterrupted communion; and they differ only but as the bud and the flower, the river and the ocean; here it is begun, hereafter perfected.

III. In the application of His grace to particular believers He hath abounded towards us in all wisdom and prudence.

1. In the way God taketh to convert souls to Himself, there is a sweet contemperation and mixture of wisdom and power. There is a proposal of truth and good to the understanding and the will, and by the secret power of His grace it is made effectual.

2. In the persuasive and moral way the wisdom of God is seen as taking the most likely course to gain the heart of man, discovering Himself to us as a God of love, kindness, and mercy.

3. In the effect itself, the new creature, which is the wisest creature on this side heaven. To evidence this to you, I shall show you that all wisdom and prudence consisteth in three things--

The harmony of Christianity in its personal influence

Take the smallest, most insignificant, most unnoticed object in nature--the particle of sand, the blade of grass, the drop of water--the worm, the insect--whatever hides in the crevice of the rock or wheels imperceptible in the eddy of the air--add to these whatever is most vast and stupendous, the mountain, the ocean, the glorious handiwork of the firmament, moons, planets, suns, vibrating in boundless space through their range of sweep and with their precision of revolution, inlaid as in a texture, marshalled as a host; all, when presented to our eye and explained to our reason, exhibit such traces of design, such accuracies of contrivance, such wonders of adaptation. “O Lord! how manifold are Thy works; in wisdom hast Thou made them all.” The text speaks of an abounding, a lavish munificence. It is of the exceeding riches of God’s grace. With these He is thus infinitely profuse. But there is nothing of an ill-considered waste Wisdom and prudence are seen in the supply of adequate means, in providing for probable difficulties, in guarding against probable abuses. Glorious are the gifts; but their right application is jealously secured. This wisdom and prudence are manifested--

I. By showing with equal distinctness the Divine justice and mercy. These are not rival attributes, nor can they have needed reconciliation. Justice does not arrest the hand of mercy; mercy does not restrain the hand of Justice. Neither is the more prompt or slow; neither is the more earnest or jealous. An infinite placability is anterior to the exercises of both. God is not merciful because Christ has died, but Christ has died because God is merciful. Is justice the first care of His government? Mercy is earlier in its purpose than any government. In Redemption they are mutually administrative. “To declare His righteousness in the remission of sin.” They act with no partiality; they come into no collision. The impression on the believing sinner’s mind must correspond. It might be that in another proportion of these attributes our mental balance would have been endangered. This Wisdom and Prudence promote the state of mind we describe.

II. By exhibiting the incarnate Son of God as alike the object of love and adoration. That Christ should be made flesh was necessary to His becoming an atonement, scarcely less that He might be the way by which we understand and approach the Divinity. He was thus made like unto us. Blessed admixture of emotions! It is tenderness, it is gratitude, it is complacency, without a lowering thought; it is humiliation, it is subjection, it is homage, without a disconcerting fear! The gospel in its wisdom and prudence produces this moral adjustment of our principles and feelings.

III. By insisting most uniformly on Divine grace and human responsibility. In its treatment of man the doctrine it preaches is most abasing to him, but only because it represents the true facts of his case. It does not lay him low, but shows how low he lies. This state of mind is secured--

IV. By the proposal of the freest terms of acceptance, and the enforcement of the most universal practice of obedience. The reign of grace, though its very name supposes that it acts in consistency with moral government, necessarily must be brought to the simplest idea of gift and its acceptance. It is “the gift by grace.” This medium, so true to the wisdom and prudence of the Christian system, is maintained--

V. By inspiring the most elevated joy in connection with the deepest self-abhorrence. There is the joy of faith. Do we not sit with Christ in heavenly places? Have we not come to the heavenly Jerusalem? These are gratulations and hopes which fall little short of ecstasy. But lest we should be exalted above measure, there is ever present to us our fallen nature, our long unconversion, our indwelling corruption, our strange perverseness, our slow proficiency; our ungrateful, deceitful, unbelieving heart. God has forgiven, but we cannot forgive ourselves. We will go softly all our years in the bitterness of our soul. We remember our ways and are ashamed. We are confounded, sad will not open our mouth when He is pacified toward us. It is not fear. It is not abject sorrow. It is the struggle of alternate dispositions. That mean of feeling, which is equidistant from extremes, is preserved--

VI. By displaying the different conduct pursued by the Deity towards sin and the sinner. This congruity of conflicting sentiments is upheld--

VII. By combining the genuine humility of the Gospel with our dignity as creatures and our conscientiousness as saints. This mellowed habit of mind is supported--

VIII. By causing all supernatural influence to operate through our rational powers and by intelligent means. The principle of life is subtle and unscanned. But after its kind, it is always developed in the same succession of fixed, classified, manifestations. The intellectual, the highest, life follows the same law. It is known by its respective conditions. It is always and in every place, without forgetting the degrees of its expansion, the same. Having found one such creature, you have a general knowledge of all. But it is a very primary doctrine of revelation, that the work of a sinner’s salvation involves the necessity that he be enlightened and influenced by a power from on high. The wisdom and prudence of the gospel discover themselves in this respect.

IX. By resting our evidence of safety and spiritual welfare upon personal virtues. Moreover, to save the mind from those violent alternations to which it tends, the religion of Christ asserts its wisdom and prudence.

X. By supplying the absence of enslaving fear with salutary caution.

XI. The actual existence of our depraved nature, and the work of sanctification in us pressing forward to its maturity, tend to that regulated temperament of mind which we urge.

XII. And certain views of personal conduct are so coupled in the Gospel with the noblest views of grace, that any improper warping of our minds is counteracted. The works of believers are rewardable. God accepteth them and is pleased with them. He is glorified in themselves. Promise of a return or recompense is made to their acts, partly growing out of the quality of those acts, but chiefly as actual additions of happiness. He is not unrighteous to forget the work of faith and the labour of love. He covenants with us. We, knowing His word and trusting His assurance, may always have respect unto this recompense of reward. But do we boast? Is it not a constitution of grace which alone could render our deeds praiseworthy and remunerable? which can speak to us, Well done? Is it not a new, independent, and most merciful consideration and treatment of our moral agency? It is the work of God by which we exclusively can work the works of God.

XIII. While the distinctive blessings and honours of the Christian might tend to elate Him, He is affected by the most opposite motives. The people of God! The sons of God! Kings and priests unto God! This can only awaken the more ardent gratitude and more profound humility. The cause of choice is not in themselves. If intimation is ever given of the cause, it is the greater sinfulness of the object. It is some design to illustrate the freeness and power of grace in restoring the most wretched outcast. And who is this restored one, that he should glory in himself? He is the undeserving subject of all. He is a brand plucked out of the fire. He is the chief of sinners. This is his utmost praise and claim, “Howbeit I obtained mercy.” He owes, he must still owe, he must owe forever! God abounds in this wisdom and prudence towards us, and thus unites our hearts.

XIV. By most strongly abstracting us from the things of earth, and yet giving us the deepest interest in its relations and engagements. (R. W. Hamilton, D. D.)


Verse 9

Ephesians 1:9

Having made known unto us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He hath purposed in Himself.

The mystery of the gospel

I. The sovereign grace of God in making known to us the mystery of His will.

1. The gospel is called the mystery of God’s will. We must not expect to be able to grasp with our reason all that is contained in it.

2. God has made known to us His will, according to the good pleasure which He purposed in Himself.

II. The purpose of God in this dispensation--“That He might gather together in one,” etc.

1. The gospel is called the dispensation of the fulness of times.

2. The apostle teaches us that one end of this dispensation was, that God might gather together in one all things in Christ.

3. The apostle farther teaches us that the gospel is intended to unite in Christ all things, both which are in heaven and which are in earth.

III. The obligation which lies on such as enjoy this privilege: to live to the praise and glory of God’s grace. (J. Lathrop, D. D.)

God’s revelation of mysteries

1. God works saving wisdom to none, to whom He opens not the doctrine of wisdom, the gospel of salvation.

2. The doctrine of our salvation through Christ is a hidden secrecy.

(a) Only partly revealed.

(b) Only revealed to a limited number. If the king acquaint some two or three of his nearest favourites with a secret, it remains a secret still in comparison with things commonly known.

3. The reason why God reveals the gospel to any is simply His good pleasure. Human merit absolutely excluded, so there is no ground for anyone to boast. (Paul Bayne.)


Verse 10

Ephesians 1:10

That in the dispensation of the fulness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ.

Heaven and earth united in Christ

Heaven and earth are to be restored to each other as well as to Him. The knowledge of God and the sanctity which have come to us in this world of conflict and sin are to flow into the great stream of pure angelic life; and the joy, the strength, the wisdom, and the security, alike of angels and of men, will be indefinitely augmented. As yet, we and they are like countries so remote or so estranged from each other that there has been no exchange of material or intellectual treasures. What the poverty of England would be if we had been always isolated from the rest of the human race we can hardly tell. It is by the free intercourse of trade, and the still freer intercourse of literature, that nations become rich and wise. Sunnier skies and more luxuriant soils give us more than half our material wealth, and we send in exchange the products of our mines and the works of our industry and skill. From sages who speculated on the universe and human life in the very morning of civilization, from poets whose genius was developed in the ancient commonwealths of Greece, our intellectual energy has received its most vigorous inspiration; and our religious faith is refreshed by streams which had their springs in the life of ancient Jewish saints and prophets, and of Christian apostles who lived eighteen centuries ago. What we hope for in the endless future is a still more complete participation in whatever knowledge and love of God, whatever righteousness, whatever joy, may exist in any province of the created universe. Race is no longer to be isolated from race, or world from world. A power, a wisdom, a holiness, a rapture, of which a solitary, soul, a solitary world, would be incapable, are to be ours through the gathering together of all things in Christ. We, for our part, shall contribute to the fulness of the universal life. To the principalities of heaven we shall be able to speak of God’s infinite mercy to a race which had revolted against His throne; of the kinship between the eternal Son of God and ourselves; of the mystery of His death and the power of His resurrection; of the consolation which came to us in sorrows which the happy angels never knew; of the tenderness of the Divine pity which was shown to us in pain and weariness and disappointment; of the strength of the Divine support which made inconstancy resolute in well doing, and changed weakness and fear into victorious heroism. And they will tell us of the ancient days when no sin had cast its shadow on the universe, and of all that they have learnt in the millenniums of blessedness and purity during which they have seen the face of God. The sanctity which is the fruit of penitence will have its own pathetic loveliness for righteous races that have never sinned; and we shall be thrilled with a new rapture by the vision of a perfect glory which has never suffered even temporary eclipse. Their joy in their own security will be heightened by their generous delight in our rescue from sin and eternal death, and our gratitude for our deliverance will deepen in intensity as we discover that our honour and blessedness are not inferior to theirs who have never broken the eternal law of righteousness. Our final glory will consist, not in the restoration of the solitary soul to solitary communion with God, but in the fellowship of all the blessed with the blessedness of the universe as well as with the blessedness of God. (R. W. Dale, LL. D.)

Timely gathering of all in Christ

I. God has set seasons in which He will accomplish all His will (Ecclesiastes 3:1; Ecclesiastes 3:17). As He brings things natural, spring, summer, autumn, winter, everything in season, so all the works He will do about His children, whether it be the punishing of wickedness for their sake, the delivering of His children from evil, the giving them benefits, He will bring them all forth in the fit appointed seasons.

1. To design times is His prerogative: as a master of a fatally has the right to fix the particular time at which this or that shall be done.

2. He only knows the fittest seasons for the accomplishment of His plans.

II. God, by opening the Gospel, brings us His Christ.

1. By nature we are severed

2. The order in which we are gathered.

III. All who shall be gathered to Christ are brought to Him by the Gospel. Only one gospel, and that gospel is for all.

II. Observe--who it is in whom we are gathered. In Christ, who--

1. Has abolished the enmity between God and us, and so removed that which divided us; and--

2. He calls us, and effectually draws us home in His time.

All things in Christ

Jesus Christ is the fulness of

The plan of redemption

This is a disclosure of the magnificent and sublime design contemplated by God through means of the gospel. It is the “mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He hath purposed in Himself.” Our own individual salvation constitutes but a fragment of a vast and glorious scheme, which in due course shall be fully achieved. The influence of that atonement to which we owe our redemption is here seen extending itself far and wide in the universe of God, and forming the grand harmonizing and uniting bond among all the objects, however various, of His goodness, mercy, and love. Nay, we are perhaps here taught that its power is to be exerted and displayed in the final subjugation of all things without exception, including the reduction of sin and evil to their own place, as well as the ingathering of all that is good--under the universal sovereignty of God.

I. There is a general plan or scheme, promoted by the Gospel, and here called “the dispensation” or economy “of the fulness of times.” It is, with reference to a plan, or dispensation, or economy, which God has in view, that He has made known to us the mystery of redemption. Every intelligent householder has some plan, according to which he directs all his energies and Jays out all his arrangements. His house, his farm, his estate, are managed and controlled for some definite object, and all his operations are conformed to some view or idea which he has formed for his own guidance. Different seasons of the year and various times come round upon him, but he keeps intelligently and firmly to his ruling purpose, and is not satisfied until the result of his plan has been fully realized. So God Himself, in the government of His whole household--the universal Father and the Lord of all--is represented as having a certain plan or economy, in accordance with which He is pleased to work through successive times, until the result He contemplates be finally attained.

II. What, then, is this grand result contemplated by the dispensation of the fulness of times? It is “to gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth even in Him.” But what are we to understand by this? What is the import of “to gather together in one”? And what maybe the full scope of “all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth”? The word rendered “to gather together in one” occurs once again in Romans 13:9, where it is rendered “briefly comprehended.” “If there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” There its import is plain; for all the commandments are summed up, “briefly comprehended,” “reduced to a head,” “gathered together in one” in those two great commandments, love to God and love to man, of the last of which the apostle was giving instances. These two commandments are heads on which all the rest depend, from which they hang, in which they are summed up. This idea of summation, representation, headship, seems to belong essentially to the import of the word, and must not be lost sight of in the passage before us, where we read of the gathering up in one of all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth. But as it is plain that “all things” do not naturally belong to Christ, but on account of sin the things on earth at least are in a state of alienation, separation, revulsion, we must here necessarily suppose that the word implies the idea of “bringing back” from that state and gathering up into the opposite state of union, harmony, love.

1. The angels may be included in this gathering together in one. Although the unfallen angels do not stand in need of redemption from sin or misery, yet they need to be preserved from the risk of falling, and may well be supposed to owe their security and infallibility in some way to Christ.

2. There is no question concerning the including, or gathering up in one, all the redeemed of mankind. Separated though they may have been in life--according to the times in which they have existed, the countries they have dwelt in, the names and outward distinctions they have borne--their union to Christ, and to each other, has been real. It will, at length, become visible.

3. But it seems intended in this passage, as it is in keeping with the representations of Scripture elsewhere, that the material creation is to share in the glorious ingathering of “all things in Christ.”

III. This gathering up of “all things” is “is Christ,” even “in Him.”

1. Consider the wondrous person of Christ as the God-man, joining mysteriously the Creator and the creation--the Maker and His work in one--by an indissoluble and eternal union.

2. But consider, secondly, that Christ, thus completely fitted to represent the creation of God, by the assumption of the human nature, has been actually constituted head of all things, with all-sufficient power to accomplish the whole plan of God. (W. Alves, M. A.)

All things to be gathered together in Christ

He will yet gather together again, in one, all things in Christ, filling them from His own fulness laid up in Him; gladdening them with His own joy; quickening them with His own life; beautifying them with His own glory; and sustaining them with His own power and resources. Great indeed must be our Lord, in whom and through whom such purposes are to be fulfilled! And divinely inspired must be the record in which they are revealed! Towards the fulfilment and manifestation in us of that purpose, all God’s past dispensations of grace have tended. Note their order.

1. By the Holy Ghost given us and through the gospel, He gathers His people into one faith and one baptism.

2. By faith, as by a spiritual nerve or sinew, He unites us with Christ, making us to become one flesh with Him, as it is written (Ephesians 5:29, “No man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth it and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the Church”).

3. He doth so unite us with Christ as to make us sons-in-law and daughters-in-law; nay, He makes us so much nearer to Himself, by how much God and Christ are more nearly united, than any natural father and son can be. As it is written: “I in them, and Thou in Me, that they may be made perfect in one.”

4. By our being thus gathered together in Christ, we are gathered into the whole body of Christ, and to all that exists under Him, and His angels become our “ministering spirits”; nay, more, we are gathered to all, who in God’s predestination belong to Christ, and all things are ours.

Oh, the depths of the riches of the wisdom and goodness of our God! There is a climax in our text.

1. His grace in creating us, as Adam in innocency and angels before they fell.

2. His upholding grace, in preventing the fall of elect angels; and His long-suffering grace towards fallen sinners.

3. But beyond all, was that manifestation of the exceeding riches and glory of His redeeming grace, in the gift of His Son, and His revealed purpose to regather us again to Himself in Him, the purchase of His blood, and the partakers of His Divine nature. Creating grace has been surpassed by preventing grace; and preventing grace again by restoring and adopting grace; and thus God has made known unto us the mystery of His will, and “His thoughts which are to usward.” (M. Rainsford, B. A.)

Relation of the Atonement to the universe

The mediation of Christ is represented in Scripture as bringing the whole creation into union with the Church or people of God. In the dispensation of the fulness of times it is said that God would “gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth, even in Him.” Again, “it pleased the Father that in Him should all fulness dwell; and (having made peace through the blood of His cross) by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself; by Him, I say, whether things in earth, or things in heaven.” The language here used supposes that the introduction of sin has effected a disunion between men and the other parts of God’s creation. It is natural to suppose it should be so. If a province of a great empire rise up in rebellion against the lawful government, all communication between the inhabitants of such a province and the faithful adherents to order and obedience must be at an end. A line of separation would be immediately drawn by the sovereign, and all intercourse between the one and the other prohibited. Nor would it less accord with the inclination than with the duty of all the friends of righteousness, to withdraw their connection from those who were in rebellion against the supreme authority and the general good. It must have been thus with regard to the holy angels, on man’s apostasy. Those who at the creation of our world had sung together, and even shouted for joy, would now retire in disgust and holy indignation. But, through the mediation of Christ, a reunion is effected. By the blood of the cross we have peace with God; and being reconciled to Him, are united to all who love Him throughout the whole extent of creation. If Paul could address the Corinthians, concerning one of their excluded members, who had been brought to repentance, “To whom ye forgive anything, I also”; much more would the friends of righteousness say, in their addresses to the Great Supreme, concerning an excluded member from the moral system, “To whom thou forgivest anything, we also!” Hence angels acknowledge Christians as brethren, and become ministering spirits to them while inhabitants of the present world. (A. Fuller.)


Verse 11

Ephesians 1:11

In whom also we have obtained an Inheritance, being predestinated: according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the council of His own will.

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).

I. The easier born Jewish Christians are described as those who before hoped in Christ. 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. Why were they thus the first in privilege? “To the praise of His glory.” It must have been the best method by which God could accomplish the end He had in view.

II. The later born. Gentile Christians.

III. The earlier born and the later born have certain things in common.

1. A common seal.

2. A common guarantee.

3. They can join in a common doxology. (R. Finlayson.)

The Christian inheritance

1. It is implied in this that it is a good of a most substantial and enduring kind. It is worthy of: the soul of man with all its cravings, aspirations, and desires, when these, too, have been purified, ennobled, and strengthened in the highest degree.

2. The second reflection we would point out from the expression here used, is that our everlasting happiness is a free gift from God. It is an inheritance; and what can be less merited on our part than that which we inherit by the will and deed of another? (W. Alves, M. A.)

Heaven through Christ alone

In the terms of a court of law, it’s theirs, not by conquest, but by heritage. Won by another arm than theirs, it presents the strongest imaginable contrast to the spectacle seen in England’s palace that day when the king demanded to know of his assembled nobles, by what title they held their lands? “What title?” At the rash question a hundred swords leapt from their scabbards. Advancing on the alarmed monarch--“By these,” they replied, “we won, and by these we will keep them.” How different the scene which heaven presents! All eyes are fixed on Jesus; every look is love; gratitude glows in every bosom, and swells in every song. (T. Guthrie, D. D.)

God accomplishes His purposes gradually

Paul has just said that it is the Divine purpose to “sum up all things in Christ, the things in the heavens and the things upon the earth.” This is the destiny of the universe. Unmeasured ages of imperfection, conflict, sin, and suffering lie behind us; and it may be that there are unmeasured ages of imperfection, conflict, sin, and suffering still to come. But at last the whole creation is to illustrate and fulfil the Divine thought, and is to reach its perfect unity and ideal perfection in Christ. That coarse conception of the Divine omnipotence which assumes that a Divine purpose is never obstructed or delayed, and that every Divine volition is immediately accomplished, receives no sanction either from the Jewish or the Christian Scriptures. It receives no sanction from those discoveries of God which are accessible through the physical universe and through the moral nature of man. It looks as though God did nothing at a single stroke, nothing by an immediate and irresistible exercise of mere force. It is His will that the summer should be beautiful with flowers, and that the autumn should bring the brown corn and the purple grapes; but flowers and grapes and corn are not commanded to appear suddenly, out of nothing; the Divine will accomplishes itself gradually, and by processes extremely complex and subtle. The world itself came to be a fit home for our race as the result of a history extending over vast and awful tracts of time. God intended that it should become what it now is; but His intention was accomplished by the action, through age after age, of the immense forces which are under His control. “Fire and hail, snow and vapour, and the stormy wind,” have fulfilled His word. He gave a commission to millions upon millions of living creatures to build the limestone rocks. Through untold centuries vast forests grew and perished, to form the coal measures. Volcanic eruptions, frost and heat, the slow movements of glaciers, the swift rush of rivers, have all had their work to do in bringing the earth which is our home into its present condition. This seems to be the Divine manner of working. The Divine purposes are not achieved suddenly. God “fainteth not, neither is He weary.” Chaos, with all its confusions, is only gradually being reduced to order; the great work is not completed yet; it will reach its term only when all things are finally summed up in Christ. The same law holds in relation to the moral and spiritual universe. We see it illustrated within narrow limits in the individual lives of good men. They only gradually approach the Divine conception of what they ought to be; their perfection is not consummated in an hour; their knowledge of God and of the will of God gradually widens and deepens; their moral and religious strength is very slowly augmented. It is God’s will that they should know Him, and know their duty, but they have to be taught. It is God’s will that they should be righteous, but they have to be disciplined to righteousness. The law is illustrated on a larger scale in the religious history of the race. The great revelation of God in Christ was not made in the earlier ages of the world. There was a long preparation for it. God began with the most elementary moral truths, and with the most elementary religious truths. He taught and disciplined the elect race by picture lessons, by a visible temple, a human priesthood, and a whole system of external rites and ceremonies. There were faint prophecies of the future redemption, but at first they were so obscure as to excite only the most vague and undefined hopes of a Divine deliverance from the evils by which human life was oppressed; and when they became clearer and more vivid, they were easily misunderstood. One generation of saints after another passed away, and the Divine purpose was still delayed. And even when the Christ came at last and the kingdom of heaven was set up among men, the hopes excited by that transcendent manifestation of God were not at once fulfilled. After eighteen hundred years the final triumph of the Divine righteousness and love seems still remote. (R. W. Dale, LL. D.)

God’s sovereign will

I. The will of God is the sovereign guide of all things, both natural and spiritual, in the world and in the Church.

1. His sovereign rill is that His people should be saved (Jeremiah 23:6; Jeremiah 30:10; Isaiah 49:25).

2. That they should be saved by coming to Christ (John 6:37; Romans 5:1; 1 Corinthians 15:57).

3. That they should be holy (1 Thessalonians 4:7; Hebrews 12:10; Hebrews 12:14).

II. The Divine will is the result of God’s counsel.

1. This counsel was Divine (Psalms 89:1-4; 2 Timothy 1:9).

2. It was a wise counsel (1 Corinthians 1:24; 1 Corinthians 2:7; Ephesians 3:9-11).

3. It was an efficient counsel (Isaiah 46:10; Isaiah 53:10; Psalms 105:3; Ecclesiastes 3:14).

III. That the triune Jehovah worketh all things according to the purpose of His own will.

1. This is evident in the choice of His people (2 Thessalonians 2:13; Titus 3:5).

2. He works out their new birth by the Spirit (Ephesians 2:10).

3. He works all things for the preservation of His people and their comfort by faith (Romans 8:28; John 1:12; Acts 16:31). (T. B. Baker.)

Doctrine of predestination

I look upon this earth in which I live. I find it grasped and girded by God’s all-embracing laws, as of gravitation, of the ebb and flow of the tides, of light, of the procession of the seasons--all utterly and absolutely beyond my control. They reach above, beneath, around, within me; I cannot touch them. There they are, unalterable, unswerving, necessitated; in its profoundest sense predestinated. And what is the issue of obedience to these laws? (A. B. Grosart, LL. D.)

Happiness in the measure of such obedience

Is that no revelation of the character of the God of the universe? No revelation? I could shut my Bible, and from creation, from the meanest flower that blows, up to the stars that hang like lamps before the great white throne, find infinite proofs that my God is also my Father. Exactly so; I cannot tell how free will, choice, contingency accord with predestination, election, fore-ordination, substitution. I do not feel that I am called upon to do so. But, as we have seen, our own consciousness attests the former, while the Word of God recognizes and addresses them, recognizes and addresses man as free to think, feel, will, choose, reject. Equally does the Word of God affirm the latter. I therefore accept them also, and can defer knowing how the All-wise harmonizes them, until He is pleased to reveal them to me. Nay more, I have deepest belief that even as the physical world is grasped and girded by its great laws, so must the other and grander world of mind have underneath it--like the granite base of the everlasting hills; above it--like the dome of the sky--kindred laws. These laws I recognize and accept in predestination, election, fore-ordination, substitution. Remove the law of gravitation, and many a fair star “flaming on the forehead of the sky,” yea, the big sun, and the whole stupendous universe, would rush to ruin, and wander off from the throne of God. Similarly, I believe, remove the laws of predestination, and you snap the many linked chain that binds man to God. And just as I have the power to violate God’s great laws, to my destruction, so may! His laws in the plan of redemption, equally to my destruction. Obey His physical laws, and until the appointed hour I live. Obey His spiritual laws; accept “eternal life” according to His predestinated way, even in and from God the Son, as offered in the gospel--and I am saved. (A. B. Grosart, LL. D.)

God’s predestination overruling man’s presumption

It is said, that on the eve of Napoleon’s departure on his Russian campaign, he related his schemes in detail to a noble lady, with such arrogant positiveness, that she tried to check him, exclaiming, “Sire, man proposes, but God disposes.” To which the emperor haughtily replied, “Madame, I propose and dispose also.” We find how, but a few months later, the disastrous retreat from Moscow, and the loss of his crown, army, and liberty vindicated the power of God.

The purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will.

God’s effectual working

1. Being in Christ, we find not only righteousness, but life everlasting.

(a) Prerogatives, kings and priests to God, etc.

(b) Glory put Upon our persons; the soul filled with the light of knowledge, etc.

(c) Things given us to possess. “All things are yours.”

2. The ground of all these benefits is our predestination.

3. Everything which comes about is God’s effectual working.

4. Whatever God works or wills, He does it with counsel.

5. What God wills, He brings about--“effectually working.” Where there is full power to work anything applied to the working of it, the thing wrought must needs follow. (Paul Bayne.)

God’s decrees

of the counsel or purpose of God concerning all His works or all things in general. Here let us consider--

1. The extent or objects of God’s purposes.

2. The properties of them.

I. As to the extent or objects of God’s purposes, it appeaers that everything which happens has a place in the Divine decrees in a manner suitable to its nature. And, indeed, if we go about to except anything, there would be no knowing where to stop: such is the series and connection of one with another. Let us take a brief survey of some instances, especially such as relate to our world. As

II. As to the properties of God’s decrees.

1. Hence we learn that there is no such thing as chance or necessary fate, or the supreme independent government of two opposite principles, good and evil, but all events are subject to the purpose and providence of one intelligent, all-knowing, infinitely wise, powerful, holy and good Being. Nothing can ever arise to surprise Him, or cast any difficulty and perplexity on His way, He having already from eternity settled the proper measures of conduct in every case that shall emerge.

2. Let us own, and let us quietly submit to the supreme will of God as fulfilled in all that befalls us. We should consider that, even when we suffer wrongfully from men, the will of God so is (1 Peter 3:17). Let us then receive all our allotments with this language of resignation, “The will of the Lord be done” (Acts 21:14).

3. This doctrine of God’s decrees may inspire us with a good confidence about the final issue of all things. How securely may we trust in God for a fair account at last of the worst appearances of the most corrupt and disorderly state of the world, since they have not escaped His eternal foresight and provision!

4. What a spring is it, too, of generous, brave, and noble undertakings in the cause of God! When we believe that He has taken, even from eternity, the wisest and best care of all events, what remains for us to care about, but only to do our duty, and to apply to it so much the more vigorously, as we have no need to distract our minds about the issues of things! With what serenity and fortitude may a good man commit himself to God in well-doing! Application: What abundant cause does this excellent order which God observed in framing the world, as well as the quality of the creatures, which had all their parts fitted to a proper use, and were made subservient to one another for the good of all, afford us to break forth into that celebration of Divine wisdom! (Psalms 104:24, “O Lord, how manifold are Thy works! in wisdom hast Thou made them all!”). Thus also the new creation of grace in Christ Jesus is executed gradually after the same model, which is the more from hence confirmed to be a point of wisdom and beauty. And how will the conducting it from a spiritual chaos of darkness and wild disorder through various periods and gradations to a glorious issue excite the most ravishing admiration in the saints, when they shall be able to carry their views from the beginning to the end of both these creations at once? How should we adore likewise the Divine power as infinitely great and wonderful in creation? Here, as in its proper province, omnipotence acted illustriously from first to last, and was only laid open to a more distinct survey in the wise order of its procedure. (J. Hubbard.)

Of the decrees of God

I. I am to explain the nature of a decree. The text calls it a purpose, a will. For God to decree is to purpose and fore-ordain, to will and appoint that a thing shall be or not be. And such decrees must needs be granted, seeing God is absolutely perfect, and therefore nothing can come to pass without His will; seeing there is an absolute and necessary dependence of all things and persons on God as the first cause. But there is a vast difference betwixt the decrees of God and men; whereof this is the principal. Men’s purposes or decrees are distinct from themselves, but the decrees of God are not distinct from Himself. God’s decrees are nothing else but God Himself, who is one simple act; and they are many only in respect of their objects, not as they are in God; even as the one heat of the sun melts wax and hardens clay.

II. I proceed to consider the object of God’s decrees. This is whatsoever comes to pass. He worketh all things, says the text. We may consider the extent of the Divine decree under the three following heads.

1. God has decreed the creation of all things that have a being.

2. He has decreed to rule and govern the creatures which He was to make. He has decreed the eternal state of all His rational creatures.

III. I come to consider the end of God’s decrees. And this is no other than His own glory. Every rational agent acts for an end; and God being the most perfect agent, and His glory the highest end, there can be no doubt but all His decrees are directed to that end.

1. This was God’s end in the creation of the world. The Divine perfections are admirably glorified here, not only in regard of the greatness of the effect, which comprehends the heavens and the earth, and all things therein; but in regard of the marvellous way of its production.

2. The glory of God was His chief end and design in making men and angels. The rest of the creatures glorified God in an objective way, as they are evidences and manifestations of His infinite wisdom, goodness, and power. But this higher rank of beings are endued with rational faculties, and so are capable to glorify God actively. Hence it is said (Proverbs 16:4), “The Lord hath made all things for Himself.” If all things were made for Him, then man and angels especially, who are the masterpieces of the whole creation. We have our rise and being from the pure fountain of God’s infinite power and goodness; and therefore we ought to run towards that again, till we empty all our faculties and excellencies into that same ocean of Divine goodness.

3. This is likewise the end of election and predestination.

4. This was the end that God proposed in that great and astonishing work of redemption. In our redemption by Christ we have the fullest, clearest, and most delightful manifestation of the glory of God that ever was or shall be in this life.

IV. I come now to consider the properties of God’s decrees.

1. They are eternal. God makes no decrees in time, but they were all from eternity. So the decree of election is said to have been “before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4).

2. They are most wise, “according to the counsel of His will.” God cannot properly deliberate or take counsel, as men do; for He sees all things together and at once.

3. They are most free, according to the counsel of His own will; depending on no other, but all flowing from the mere pleasure of His own will (Romans 11:34). “For who hath known the mind of the Lord, or who hath been His counsellor?”

4. They are unchangeable.

5. They are most holy and pure.

6. They are effectual. Whatever God decrees comes to pass infallibly (Isaiah 46:10).

I conclude all with a few inferences.

1. Has God decreed all things that come to pass? Then there is nothing that falls out by chance, nor are we to ascribe what we meet with either to good or ill luck and fortune.

2. Hence we see God’s certain knowledge of all things that happen in the world, seeing His knowledge is founded on His decree. As He sees all things possible in the glass of His own power, so He sees all things to come in the glass of His own will; of His effecting will, if He hath decreed to produce them; and of His permitting will, if He hath decreed to suffer them.

3. Whoever be the instruments of any good to us, of whatever sort, we must look above them, and eye the hand and counsel of God in it, which is the first spring, and be duly thankful to God for it. And whatever evil of crosses or afflictions befalls us, we must look above the instruments of it to God.

4. See here the evil of murmuring and complaining at our lot in the world. How apt are ye to quarrel with God, as if He were in the wrong when His dealings with you are not according to your own desires and wishes? You demand a reason, and call God to an account, Why am I thus? But you should remember that this is to defame the counsels of infinite wisdom, as if God had not ordered your affairs wisely enough in His eternal counsel.

5. There is no reason for people to excuse their sins and falls, from the doctrine of the Divine decrees. Wicked men, when they commit some villainy or atrocious crime, are apt to plead thus for their excuse, Who can help it? God would have it so; it was appointed for me before I was born, so that I could not avoid it. This is a horrid abuse of the Divine decrees, as if they did constrain men to sin: whereas the decree is an immanent act of God, and so can have no influence, physical or moral, upon the wills of men, but leaves them to the liberty and free choice of their own hearts; and what sinners do, they do most freely and of choice.

6. Let the people of God comfort themselves in all cases by this doctrine of the Divine decrees; and, amidst whatever befalls them, rest quietly and Submissively in the bosom of God, considering that whatever comes or can come to pass, proceeds from the decree of their gracious Friend and reconciled Father. (T. Boston, D. D.)

The Divine decrees and the free agency of man

I. To explain and establish the doctrine of the Divine decrees. The Divine decrees are the eternal purpose, will, or plan of God, whereby He hath, for His own glory, predetermined whatsoever has, or shall come to pass.

1. This purpose is eternal. If, therefore, God has existed from eternity, He has known from eternity what is the best plan by which to govern the universe; He has from eternity had a preference for that which is best, and from eternity determined to adopt and pursue it, and that is all that is intended by His eternal purpose--the determination of God, from all eternity, to do that, in every possible case, which it appeared most desirable to Himself that He should do.

2. His purpose is immutable. It cannot alter. An alteration in the Divine purpose would necessarily imply an alteration in the Divine mind, which would be, in fact, to suppose a fickle, changeable God.

3. His purpose is sovereign--not arbitrary. There are some who always understand the word sovereign as though it were synonymous with arbitrary; and, therefore, reject the idea of the Divine sovereignty altogether. No; in the purpose of God there is an end to be secured infinitely worthy of Himself, namely, His own glory; and that purpose is nothing more than the determination to secure this end by the best possible means. The sovereignty of His purpose lies in this, that it is perfectly independent of His foreknowledge, as its cause; and that in the adoption and prosecution of it, He is not, in any way, responsible to any of His creatures.

II. To state what is necessary to the constitution of a free agent, or accountable creature, and to shew that man is such a creature.

1. To constitute an accountable creature, or a free agent, there must be intelligence.

2. The exercise of will is absolutely essential to free agency, and it is in this especially that our own consciousness informs us our free agency consists. The actions which are not the result of choice or will, but contrary to it, are not, properly speaking, our own.

3. Where actions are concerned, sufficiency of means is also requisite to the constitution of a free agent, or an accountable creature. No man can be justly chargeable with guilt, in failing to accomplish what he had not sufficiency of means to perform.

III. That the divine decrees, thus understood, and the free agency of man, thus defined, are not incompatible the one with the other; in other words, that the purpose of God does not destroy the freedom of human actions. If, indeed, the doctrine of the Divine purpose be established, and the free agency of man admitted, then the proposition is at once demonstrated. It is not the fact, but the mode of that fact which is the subject of inquiry,

1. Hypothetical reasoning, or reasoning by supposition, is a legitimate mode of argument on topics such as these, where the object is not so much to establish the truth of a doctrine or proposition, as to show the possibility of its existence, by an appeal to some supposable cases. There are only two ways in which the Divine purpose or decree can be supposed to affect the free agency of man--either by rendering his actions certain, before they take place; or by compelling or constraining those actions against his will. Now, can we not suppose a finite being in every sense perfectly free--a being under no system of moral government whatever, left in every respect to himself, and whose actions should be, in the philosophical sense of the word, contingent? Would not such a being be allowed to possess every requisite qualification of a free agent? But the circumstance that all the actions of that being, and every volition of his mind, are perfectly foreknown by God, would not render them less free.

2. But we may appeal, as another ground of argument on this difficult subject, to our own consciousness. Are we ever conscious, either in our vicious or virtuous actions, of acting against our inclination? Were we ever conscious of choosing a thing against our choice, or of preferring a line of conduct contrary to our preference?

3. But we shall finally appeal to some scriptural illustrations of the doctrine. The first we shall introduce is that furnished by the text. Now the counsel and purpose of God are infallibly certain, but faith in Christ is the voluntary act of an intelligent creature; by this we mean, an act done with the full consent of the will. It may be asked, then, “Is the will of man free to receive or free to reject Christ, so that it can as easily do the one as the other?” We answer, No; for by reason of the Fall, his will has naturally a bias to that which is evil, and would, therefore, in every case, without a Divine influence, reject Christ. Here, then, is the difference between free agency and free will. A free agent is one who has the power of willing and of acting according as his will shall dictate! but free will, in its popular sense, is an ability, in the will itself, to choose good or evil; and this is not the case with man; for the will that spontaneously and of itself chooses holiness, cannot be a depraved will; this supposition would, therefore, falsify the doctrine of human depravity, and, at the same time, annihilate the doctrine of the influence of the Holy Spirit; for the will that can choose holiness without a Divine influence, does not require a Divine influence; and, therefore, the office of the Holy Spirit is, in that case, unnecessary. The will, indeed, is uncoerced; the idea of a coerced will is absurd. But the will of a finite being is limited and bounded by the circumstances of his nature, and in man that nature being fallen, limits the exercises of his will to that only which is in harmony with his fallen nature. While the will to sin, then, is perfectly free (we use the term as opposed to coercion), he cannot, from the very necessity of his nature, will holiness without a Divine influence on the heart; and that influence is such as not to coerce the will, or render the will to holiness less free than was the previous will to sin. The one was the will of a corrupt and depraved nature--the other is the will of a renewed nature, both equally uncoerced; but, in the one instance, the principle was from within himself--in the other, it was from God. (T. Raffles, D. D.)

Predestination

When St. Paul speaks of our being predestinated or foreordained, he is speaking about this nature of ours and what it was made for? He says in effect, that the idea of a thing is in the constitution of the thing itself--but it is also in the mind of God before it is in our mind. Fore-ordination is that to which the thing was ordained before it was actually made. The idea of this building was in the mind of the architect before it was ever put on paper, before it was ever translated into material visibility. And the idea of every part of it was in other minds before it was in his. The idea of Gothic architecture was suggested to the mind of the first man who attempted it, by an avenue of trees, their branches hanging towards each other, forming a peculiar kind of arch. The idea of man and the destiny of man was in the Divine mind before this world was. Man was made according to a Divine idea, and for a definite purpose. Now, when Jesus Christ comes into the world Paul sees that there is God’s idea and purpose for man fully and clearly revealed. And so he begins to speak of that for which man was predestinated; of that for which he was fore-ordained. His mind is full of it. It does not depress him; it inspires him; animates him, makes life purer and sweeter, grander and more glorious. So much so, that in speaking to the Romans with these ideas of predestination in his mind, he cries out, “If God be for us, who can be against us.” Fore-ordination is God for us, according to the apostle. Predestination is God for us, according to the apostle. And there can be no room for doubt that to the mind of St. Paul these ideas had nothing in them of gloom or depression. But they have been so used as to bring gloom and depression to many minds. Predestination means purpose. It implies an end. And it implies the provision necessary to carry out that purpose and to accomplish that end. Rightly viewed, it means that the Creator does not work at random, nor blindly, but according to a preconceived idea and along the line of the law which leads up to making that idea into a fact. In every department of life there is the perfect type. The perfect thing is the complete thing--that which cannot be improved upon. To me predestination speaks of the end which God had in making man, of the type of man that the Creator intended, and of the unchangeable purpose that He has to produce that type--that type, the perfection and consummation of which we have in Jesus the Christ. A man conformed to that type is a man after God’s own heart; not conformed to it he is breaking away from the destiny which God intended for him. (Reuen Thomas.)


Verse 12

Ephesians 1:12

That we should be to the praise of His glory, who first trusted in Christ.

The dignity and obligations of those called early to faith

I. To be brought to faith before others is a prerogative which persons so called have above others.

1. Let us acknowledge their dignity. The young rise up before the ancient in nature; so should it be with us who are babes, when we meet with those who are veterans in Christ (see Romans 16:6; 1 Corinthians 16:15).

2. Let those so honoured walk worthy of their dignity, by adorning their age in Christ with graces corresponding, such as experience, wisdom, weanedness, all kinds of mortification. Should one of fifty have no more wisdom and staidness than another at fifteen, it would make their old age despicable.

II. The end of all the benefits we obtain in Christ is, that we may set forth His glorious grace and mercy toward us. Let our words, our works, our whole man be at His command and service. The Church in the Canticles so praises the beauty of her spouse, that she wakens others; so should we from our hearts set forth the praise of our Christ, that others may by our means be brought to inquire after Him. Those who find bounteous masters on earth, how will they tell of their affability and liberality, of every circumstance wherein they do them any grace and favour? How will they protest themselves devoted to their service; how impatient are they of anything which so much as seems to tend to their disparagement? What a shame, then, it is that we should walk, neither feeling our hearts affected, nor yet opening our mouths to praise Him who has redeemed us and brought us to the hope of an immortal and incorruptible inheritance. (Paul Bayne.)

Believers ministering to God’s praise

In order to understand this sentence, we must consider that the term, “trusted in Christ,” implies more than it expresses; even the coming to God, or repentance, through belief, or hope, or trust that Christ, by His death, has made reconciliation with God for all who will come to Him in this hope, belief, and trust. The sentence, then, must be understood as thus: “That we should be to the praise of His glory, who first drew near unto Him, through trust in the reconciliation which Christ has made”; and then we see how this is to the praise and glory of God. For God’s glory is manifested by the exercise of His gracious attributes of mercy and loving kindness and forgiveness; but these He is prevented from exercising towards men when their hearts are impenitent and unbelieving, as we find it recorded of our Lord, that “He could there do no mighty works, because of their unbelief.” But what does the apostle mean when he speaks: “we who first trusted in Christ”? He is speaking apparently of the Jews, the first to whom the gospel was preached; as we find our Lord instructing His apostles, “Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel”; and again, we have St. Paul saying that the offer and promise of salvation was made to the Jew first; and it is well to remember that all the first apostles and heralds of salvation were from among the Jews, thus fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah and others, that “the Word of the Lord” should “go forth from Jerusalem”; and hence we see how that, in more than one sense, the first Jewish believers may be said to have ministered to the praise and glory of God. For not only did they, by their faith and repentance, make room for God’s glory to be manifested by the extension of mercy and forgiveness to themselves; but they, leading the way, were the occasion of others also embracing the faith, and themselves proclaimed it to the rest of the world. (A. P. Perceval, B. C. L.)

God must have all the glory of grace

A certain king had a minstrel, and he bade him play before him. It was a day of high feasting; the cups were flowing, and many great guests were assembled. The minstrel laid his fingers among the strings of his harp and woke them all to the sweetest melody, but the hymn was to the glory of himself. It was a celebration of the exploits of song which the bard had himself performed. He had excelled high Howell’s harp, and emulated great Llewellyn’s lay. In high-sounding strains he sang himself and all his glories. When the feast was over the harper said to the monarch, “Oh, king, give me my guerdon; let the minstrel’s mede be paid.” And the king said, “Thou hast sung unto thyself; pay thyself; thine own praises were thy theme; be thyself the paymaster.” He cried, “Did I not sing sweetly? O, king, give me the gold!” But the king replied, “So much the worse for thy pride, that thou shouldest lavish such sweetness upon thyself.” Brethren, even if a man should grow grey-headed in the performance of good works, yet when at the last it is known that he has done it all to himself, his Lord will say, “Thou hast done well enough in the eyes of man, but so much the worse, because thou didst it only to thyself, that thine own praises might be sung, and that thine own name might be extolled.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)

We must trust Christ

What had the woman who touched the hem of our Lord’s garment heard? Nothing of His kindness towards herself, but towards others, and upon this she believed. So a rope is but cast down into the sea to a multitude of drowning men, and all are bidden for their life to lay hold on the rope that they may be saved; it were unreasonable and foolish curiosity for any of these poor men, now upon death and life, commanded to hold fast the rope, to dispute whether did the man who east down the rope intend and purpose to save me or not? and while my mind is perplexed on that point, I will not put out one finger to touch the rope. Fool! dispute not, but lay hold on the remedy. (S. Rutherford.)


Verses 12-14

Verse 13

Ephesians 1:13

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.

The functions of the Word and the Spirit

1. God, by the hearing of His word, makes us partakers in His Spirit (John 6:45; Ephesians 4:21; Colossians 1:6). As the ground cannot be quickened with fruits till it receive seed and the clews from heaven, no more can our soul be quickened with the spirit and fruits of the Spirit, till by hearing it has taken in this seed immortal, and drunk in this heavenly shower of God’s Word. It is not every hearing which is accompanied with the Spirit, but hearing with the heart, so as the heart is affected to do what it hears.

2. The word of the gospel is that which, being heard, brings us the quickening Spirit. Hence the ministry of the gospel is called the ministry of the Spirit.

3. All God’s promises made in Christ are true and faithful.

4. It is not enough to hear, but we must believe before we can partake of the good Spirit of Christ.

5. The faithful are, as it were by seal, confirmed touching their salvation and full redemption (Ephesians 4:30; 2 Corinthians 1:22). As God sealed His Christ, as the Person in whom He would be glorious by working our redemption, so He seals us who are believers, for persons who shall have redemption by Him. Even as persons contracting do mutually seal and deliver each of them their deeds in several: so between God and the believer; the believer does by faith set to his seal, as it were, that God is true in that which He promises (John 3:33), and God seals unto the believer that he shall be infallibly brought to the salvation he has believed.

6. The Holy Spirit, and the graces of the Spirit, are the seal assuring our redemption.

7. The Holy Spirit, not only as a seal, but as earnest money, confirms to us our inheritance. It is not with the Spirit and His gifts as with the sun and its light--the body of the sun being in the heavens, while the light is with us here on earth; but we are to conceive the Spirit Himself dwelling in this sanctuary of grace which He has Himself erected in our souls. Even as men assure others that they will pay them the whole sum due for this or that, by giving an earnest; so God makes us, as it were, part payment, that we may be persuaded of His gracious purpose of bringing us to our heavenly inheritance.

The Spirit’s application of the promises to the believer’s heart

The “sealing” of the Spirit is evidently a distinct act from faith, and the “sealing of the Holy Spirit” appears to be a metaphorical expression to denote that the same Divine Agent who had implanted in their souls a principle of faith, and brought this principle into exercise, had likewise produced in their minds an assurance of their interest in the premises of the gospel, and in the blessings of salvation by a Redeemer. Preliminary observations.

1. Our characters must answer to the characters of those who have a right to claim an interest in the promises. They only who are brought to believe truly in Christ are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.

2. We must be led to see our need of His assistance.

3. Our state must be that of those for whom the promises are designed. Sorrow for sin, fear of God, etc. (Psalms 31:19; Psalms 27:14; Psalms 18:30; Psalms 37:40; Psalms 32:10; Psalms 112:7). If God be not the object of our reverence, confidence, and love, these promises do not belong to us.

4. In the application of a promise of Scripture to the heart, the Holy Spirit impresses the mind with a conviction that the promise is true, and gives the soul a persuasion on scriptural grounds, that God is both able and willing to perform it.

5. We may know that a promise of Scripture is applied to the mind by the Holy Spirit, when, upon a strict and impartial examination, we are directed to conclude that we are possessed of those several qualifications and graces of the Christian life which are inseparably connected with a right application of the promises to the heart (see Galatians 5:22-23). These graces are not the causes, but the necessary evidences of an interest in the promises.

6. There is ground to believe that we are interested in the promises, when our general conduct, both personally and relatively, answers to the rules and obligations prescribed in the Word of God (Hebrews 12:14).

Inferences:

1. Let us rejoice in the promises of revelation, and bless God for them.

2. Let us examine, strictly and closely, the foundation of our title to the promises.

3. Let those who have felt and enjoyed the application of the promises to their souls remember their obligations to sovereign mercy. (The Pulpit.)

How Divine grace is manifested

Let us observe how the operations of Divine grace are manifested in those who are the objects of it--that is, how those who are the objects of Divine grace are to be known.

I. The power of Divine grace was proved in their attention to the word preached by the apostle.

II. Faith in the Gospel of Christ, and trust in the Lord Jesus, is the manifestation of the power of Divine grace.

III. The power of Divine grace, and their election to their inheritance, were manifested by the operations and influences of the Holy Spirit upon them. (R. J. McGhee, M. A.)

Truth and trust

I. The Gospel which the Ephesians heard is designated--

1. The word of truth, because in itself emphatically and entirely true. History, not romance. Christ’s miracles were real events, manifesting the divinity of His person and mission; His doctrines, precepts, promises, threatenings, are the truthful declarations of the God of truth.

2. The gospel of salvation.

II. The faith and the trust which the Ephesians exercised on hearing the Gospel.

1. Historical belief in the Messiah-ship of Jesus of Nazareth.

2. Heartfelt trust and hope in His sacrificial sufferings and death, for present and personal salvation. Having believed Him to be what He said He was, they were emboldened to trust that He would do what He had promised. (Luke Tyerman.)

Difference between belief and trust

Imagine a storm at sea. There is a ship tossed as the merest plaything on the maddened waves, while the tempest round about roars like a black spirit from the vast abyss, and the sky overhead is bent down with the rumbling vengeance of rolling thunder. The sails of the ship shiver; the planks give way; the men on board are pale with terror, for they are all conscious that they are in the utmost danger of being drowned. Their hearts beat; their bosoms heave; their lips quiver; their eyes stare. They think as they best can of their beloved friends, far, far away; and then they look at the foaming, boiling, billowy sea which is likely to become their grave; and for awhile all is deep, and dead, and significant, and solemn silence. At length silence can endure no longer; and now, mingling with the howling and raging of the storm, you hear cries and groans and prayers, such as none but persons who are conscious that they are perishing can utter. In this fearful crisis a boat appears, and approaching them it offers to rescue them, and promises to ensure their safety. How is the offer treated? One group of the drowning men believe that the boat is not a pirate, but a friend--that its pretensions are sincere, and that its flag is genuine; but they still stand and fear and hesitate. One says that the boat is for the better class of passengers, not for a poor, miserable, degraded wretch like him. Another is free from all fear such as that, and yet he hesitates to step into the boat. Why? He looks at the dashing waves; and he listens to the howling winds, and he thinks of the distance between him and the nearest shore; and, all things being thus considered, he fears that the boat is not strong enough to outride the storm; and hence, despite warning words and inviting looks, the poor timorous man in question, as well as the self-deprecating one already mentioned, neglects to rush into the boat, and so is lost. Here you have a representation of an immensely numerous class of persons in the Christian Church--persons who believe in Christ, and yet for various reasons fail to trust in Christ. How many believe in Christ as a Saviour, but dare not trust in Christ as their Saviour! They believe He waits to save others, but they dare not trust that He will save them. How many others, again, there are who, whilst they believe that Christ loved them and gave Himself for them, dare not trust in the simple means which Christ has prescribed (or sinners being saved! They dare not. Looking, on the one hand, at the badness of their hearts, and the guiltiness of their lives, and then, on the other hand, looking at the simple and easy method of salvation which Christ propounds, they dare not trust in its sufficiency. They fear the thing is too simple to be right, and they say they dare not trust for the welfare of their souls, in time and in eternity, merely on the merits of another. This may be quite sufficient, but they are afraid it may be otherwise. There they are, believing Christ, but not trusting Christ; and for want of trust they perish. (Luke Tyerman.)

Union of faith and trust

Another class on the foundering ship see the lightning’s flash, and hear the thunder’s roll; they see the ocean tossed in tempest, and think of their distance from the nearest haven. Their plight is perilous--terrifically perilous; but the boat approaches, and is close at hand, They read the inscription on its flag; they listen to the invitations, and to the pledges of its commander; they count the cost; they know that the case is desperate. Anyhow, they feel their case cannot be worse than it is; and so, amid the tattering of sails and the splintering of masts, and forked lightnings and thunders terrible, amid howling winds and dashing waves, amid hearings and rockings and creakings and crackings, the poor perishing wretches make a rush, and, with a desperate leap, they trust themselves to the lifeboat which offers them assistance. Such were the Christian converts at Ephesus. They believed in Christ; i.e., they believed that He was no adventurer, but, in reality, what He professed to be:; but in addition to that historical faith in Christ there was also trust in Christ. They not only believed Him to be a Saviour, but trusted in Him as their Saviour--even theirs. Renouncing trust in everything else, they trusted in Christ, in His merits alone, for acceptance with God, and for the gift of eternal life in Him. Damned or saved, cursed or blessed, sink or swim, they made the venture, and put their whole trust for personal and for endless salvation in the merits and mediation of this Divine Redeemer. And with what result? In this lifeboat of salvation, launched by the illimitable benevolence of God, crimsoned all over with the blood of the Paschal Lamb, and bearing a banner emblazoned with the Cross, they found all they needed. The wind was sometimes boisterous; the sea was sometimes rough; ever and anon the waves dashed the rocks, lashed the cliffs, and seemed to splash the very skies; but in the midst of all the violence the boat is borne without a shrunken plank, or a tattered sail, or a splintered mast. (Luke Tyerman.)

The Ephesians’ faith

I. The object of their faith.

1. The word of truth. It contains all that truth which concerns our present duty and our future glory.

2. The gospel of our salvation, It discovers to us our ruined, helpless condition; the mercy of God to give us salvation; the way in which it is procured for us; the terms on which we may become interested in it; the evidences by which our title to it must be ascertained; and the glory and happiness which it comprehends.

II. The forwardness, and yet reasonableness, of their faith. They trusted in Christ after they heard the word of truth. They acted as honest and rational men: they did not trust before they heard it, nor refuse to trust after they heard it.

III. The happy consequence of their faith.

1. The sealing of the Spirit.

2. The earnest of the Spirit.

1. Our subject teaches us that all the operations of the Divine Spirit on the minds of men are of a holy nature and tendency.

2. Our subject strongly encourages humble souls to apply to God for the needful influences of His grace.

3. It appears that we can have no conclusive evidence of a title to heaven, without the experience of a holy temper.

4. We see that Christians are under indispensable obligations to universal holiness. (J. Lathrop, D. D.)

The effect of hearing the gospel

I. We are to consider the interesting light in which the gospel is represented in the text.

1. It is described as the word of truth. And it is thus designated, because it is not the word of man, but in truth the Word of God.

2. It is the gospel of your salvation. The best explanation of the word gospel, perhaps, is that given by the angel to the shepherds, when he announced to them the birth of the Saviour in these words, “Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy,” etc.

3. Moreover, the gospel, when accompanied with the influence of the Holy Spirit, is itself the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.

II. The biassed effect which the hearing of this gospel is stated to have had on the Ephesians. “In whom,” that is, in Christ, “ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation.” Christ is the sum and substance of the gospel. All the rays of its Divine light meet in Him as in their common centre. But it may be asked, What is meant by trusting in Christ?--or, What does the expression imply?

1. It implies that we have faith in His power or ability to save; faith in the all-cleansing virtue of His blood, in the perfection of His righteousness, in the prevailing efficacy of His intercession, in the all-sufficiency of His grace, in the everlasting strength of His arm, in His providential care and protection. Such a faith as this, it is plain, is absolutely necessary in order to our having anything like trust or confidence in Him. We must be fully persuaded that He can help us.

2. That trusting in Christ implies that we have faith in His mercy and grace, no less than faith in His power. It is not a persuasion of ability alone that can inspire confidence in the applicant for Divine aid. He must be equally convinced that sympathy and benevolence are connected with it; in other words, he must believe that there is in Christ a disposition to exert His almighty power for his relief.

3. Trust in Christ implies a simplicity of dependence upon Him for salvation.

4. Trust in the Lord, when steadfast and immovable, such as we may suppose that of the Ephesians to have been, implies a lively hope and expectation of receiving from Him all things that appertain unto life and godliness. A child, while he is conscious of being under the care and protection of a kind and affectionate father, fears nothing; but looks up to him with confidence for a due supply of all his wants. That parental love, tenderness, and care, of which he has constantly received the most pleasing and substantial proofs, leave him no room to doubt his father’s disposition to succour and provide for him, but beget and cherish in his bosom the most lively hopes and expectations. Similar, then, are the feelings which those who trust in Christ manifest towards Him. (D. Rees.)

The biography of trust

Trust in Christ is the fruit of faith in Him. We cannot believe God’s record concerning Christ without trusting in Him; and faith, which is the root of trust, cometh by hearing the word of the truth of the gospel. The word heard produces faith, and the Holy Ghost is the seal of the word believed. Trust in Jesus Christ regards Him from our standpoint as He is revealed to us in the word of the truth of the gospel. But the gospel reveals him to us from God’s standpoint as “all in all,” made of God unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. There is nothing that God sees to be good for us that we may not have by trusting in Christ. “He that trusteth in the Lord, mercy shall compass him about.” Imagine being in the centre of the circle of mercies!--mercy above, mercy beneath, mercy around us. All God’s fulness is laid up for us in Jesus Christ, and abounds to us in superabounding mercies. Jesus Christ was the promise of the Old Testament to be believed. The Holy Ghost is the promise of the New Testament, and is from Christ to us who believe the seal of our union with Him. “In whom ye also trusted.” There are three truths here stated, and referring in common to both those who first trusted in Christ and “ye also.”

1. “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth.”

2. “In whom also we have obtained an inheritance” (verse 11).

3. “In whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance.” We both have trusted. We have both obtained an inheritance. We have both been sealed. “Chosen! in Him before the foundation of the world.” Blessed! adopted! accepted! redeemed! forgiven!--and sealed for all these in Him! (M. Rainsford, B. A.)

The inheritance and the seal

I. The apostle here shows how or by what means the inheritance is obtained, i.e., how anyone comes actually to have a right and interest in it. When speaking of his own interest in the inheritance, the apostle’s mind was occupied with a sense of that sovereign good pleasure of God, which is the foundation of all grace and mercy, and he seized on the opportunity of rendering praise to that original cause of his salvation. And so he might have spoken with regard to the Ephesians, for they likewise had been predestinated unto the adoption of children. But he rather refers in their case to the means by which that had been brought about under God. These are first, the word of truth, the gospel of salvation; second, the hearing that word; and third, the believing in Christ through the word. The first may be called the outward means, viz., the word read but especially preached; the second the inward means, hearing, i.e., the inward passage of the word through the sense of hearing and the intellect; and the third, the inner or inmost means, viz., faith, which is a thing of the heart or soul within. This accords with the statement made elsewhere, “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” Here is a threefold cord not easily broken, by which man, in a way suitable to his nature, is drawn effectually heavenward from the horrible pit and the miry clay, into which all have plunged by sin.

1. The outward means, “the word of truth--the gospel of salvation.” The latter of these clauses explains the former. “The word of truth” is “the gospel of salvation.”

2. The necessity of hearing the word of truth, the gospel of salvation. This is the means by which the saving truth of God reaches the conscience and the heart.

3. It had become effectual to the Ephesians, who, after they had heard, says the apostle, believed in Christ. The truth had penetrated into their hearts, and there produced all those effects which at last resulted in a living faith or trust in the Saviour. How the word of truth, the gospel of salvation, had operated, what process it had followed, what advancing states of mind, conscience, and feeling it had given rise to in the inner chamber of the soul, the apostle does not delay to specify. Certain convictions would be produced--convictions of ignorance, of depravity, of guilt. New light broke into the mind on spiritual and heavenly things, setting before them in clear manifestation God’s blessed and holy nature, His righteous law, His inflexible justice, whilst heaven and hell were disclosed to view. The terrible dominion of Satan, and their own bondage under him to sin, were revealed. Then the Deliverer, the Son of the Mighty One, was preached to them, nigh to justify, able to save to the uttermost. Seeing and believing all this, their hearts were at length moved in willing obedience to the gospel of their salvation. They submitted to the righteousness of God in Christ, and cast their own to the winds.

II. What are some of the present advantages possessed by those who have obtained that inheritance, and who are the heirs of eternal life?

1. Believers are sealed and made safe by the Holy Spirit. It is commonly understood that a seal put upon a letter or document secures it against detriment from any unfavourable quarter. The breaking of a seal would bring down the strong penalty of the law on the offender. The seal of the sovereign is the highest guarantee that can be afforded for the validity of any right, title, or possession which a subject can enjoy.

2. Believers are evidenced of the Holy Spirit as sealing them. (W. Alves, M. A.)

The gospel of salvation

Salvation in its proper sense means deliverance from something that is feared or suffered. For though salvation is sometimes taken to denote the happiness of heaven, yet still even then it directs our attention to those miseries out of which it is necessary that we be rescued before heaven can either be attained or enjoyed. That we may understand, therefore, the full import of this term, salvation, so frequently used and so vaguely apprehended, we must look to the situation in which we stand as sinners. We must look to it in its every aspect and in all its extent. We cannot at present do more than take a rapid sketch of those particular and specific benefits which are denoted by the term salvation in reference to the evils from which it delivers.

1. It implies deliverance from ignorance--not from ignorance of human science or of worldly objects, with which however the gospel that reveals it does not forbid us to make ourselves acquainted, and upon which it throws a sanctifying light--but from ignorance of God, the first and the last, the greatest and the wisest, the holiest and the best of beings; the maker of all things; the centre of all perfection; the fountain of all happiness.

2. The salvation here spoken of implies deliverance from guilt.

3. The salvation we have been considering implies deliverance from the power of sin. We are naturally the slaves of this power. Sin reigns in us, as the descendants of apostate Adam. We cannot throw off its yoke by any virtue or efforts of our own. And so long as it maintains its ascendency, we are degraded, and polluted, and miserable. But provision is made in the gospel for our emancipation.

4. The salvation of the gospel implies deliverance from the ills and calamities of life. It does not imply this literally. For under the dispensation of the gospel there is, strictly speaking, no exemption from bodily disease, from outward misfortune, or from the thousand distresses that humanity is heir to. But Christ has given such views of the providence of God, He has brought life and immortality so clearly to light, and has so modified and subdued the operations of sin, which is the immediate or the ultimate cause of all our sufferings, that these are no longer real evils to them that believe.

5. The salvation here mentioned implies deliverance from the power and the fear of death.

6. And then, while the salvation revealed in the gospel implies our deliverance from all these evils, it also implies our admission into the heavenly state. It is in order to bring us there at last that all the other benefits we have been speaking of were conferred upon us. We were delivered from ignorance that we might know what heaven is--that we might be made acquainted with the way that leads to it--that we might be aware of the preparation necessary for dwelling in it. We were delivered from the sentence of condemnation that our forfeiture of heaven might be annulled, and that God might justly and consistently introduce us into its recompense and its glory. We were delivered from the power of sin that, by the removal of moral depravity, and the renewal of God’s image on the soul, and the cultivation of holy habits, we might be qualified for the exercises and the joys of heaven, which are all most pure and immaculate. We were delivered from the ills and calamities of life as to all their evil influence, that they might be made instrumental in purifying our character, that they might be prevented from discouraging us in our progress towards heaven, and that they might enhance our blessedness there, by the greatness of our transition from trouble and sorrow to rest and joy. And we were delivered from the power and the fear of death that soul and body, united as constituent parts of the same redeemed child of God, might become, in heaven, joint partakers of that felicity for which they had acquired a joint title, and for which they made a joint preparation, upon earth; and that, regarding death as a messenger of peace rather than as the king of terrors, the prospect of his coming to summon us away might comfort us in the midst of those distresses, while it stimulated us to the discharge of those duties by which our meetness for glory would be hastened and matured. (Andrew Thomson, D. D.)

Trusting brings salvation

“Well,” says one, “then if God commands me to trust Christ, though I certainly have no reason why I should, then I’ll do it.” Ah! soul, do it then. Can you do it? Can you trust him now? Is it a full trust? Are you leaning on your feelings? Give them up. Are you depending a little on what you mean to do? Give that up. Do you trust Him wholly? Can you say, “His blessed wounds, His flowing blood, His perfect righteousness, on these I rest. I do trust Him, wholly”? Are you half afraid to say you do? Do you think it is such a bold thing? Do it then; do a bold thing for once I Say, “Lord, I’ll trust Thee, and if Thou cast me away, I’ll still trust Thee; I bless Thee that Thou canst save me, and that Thou wilt save me.” Can you say that? I say, have you believed in Him? You are saved, then; you are not in a salvable state, but you are saved; not partly, but wholly saved; not some of your sins blotted out, but all; behold the whole list, and it is written at the bottom of them all--“The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The way of salvation

They

Faith is our seal. Assurance is God’s seal. God honours our sealing to His truth by His sealing by His Spirit. There must be the bargain before the earnest. (Trapp.)

Ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise.

The sealing of the Spirit

There are many who have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who are extremely anxious to obtain some token for good, some witness from God which shall render them quite sure that they are saved. They feel that these matters are too important to be left at all uncertain; and they, therefore, pine for some sure witness or seal.

I. First, let us speak of the position of this sealing. That sealing we can have, God does bestow it; but let us notice very carefully, lest we make a mistake, where that sealing comes in.

1. It does not come before believing. According to the text it is “after that ye believed, ye were sealed.” Now, there are hundreds of persons who are craving for something to see or to feel before they will believe in Jesus Christ; this is wickedness, and the result of an unbelief which is most offensive in the sight of God. If not a miracle, perhaps you demand a dream, or a strange feeling, or a mysterious operation; at any rate, if you do not see some sign and wonder, you declare that you will not believe.

2. Note, also, that this sealing does not necessarily come at once with faith. It grows out of faith, and comes “after that ye believed.” We are not in every case sealed at the moment when we first trust in Jesus. Whether you feel that you are justified or not is not the point, you are to accept God’s word, which assures you that every one that believeth is justified: you are bound to believe the testimony of God apart from the supporting evidence of inward experience. The foundation of our hope is laid in Christ from first to last, and if we rest there we are saved. The seal does not always come with faith, but it follows after.

3. Note, also, as to the position of its sealing, that, while it is not the first, it is not the last thing in the Divine life. It comes after believing, but when you obtain it there is something yet to follow. Perhaps you have had the notion that if you could once be told from the mouth of God Himself that you were saved, you would then lie down and cease from life’s struggle. It is clear, therefore, that such an assurance would be an evil thing for you, for a Christian is never more out of place than when he dreams that he has ceased from conflict. Here we must labour, watch, run, fight, wrestle, agonise; all our forces, strengthened by the Eternal Spirit, must be expended in this high enterprise, striving to enter in at the strait gate: when we have obtained the sealing our warfare is not ended, we have only then received a foretaste of the victory, for which we must still fight on. This is the true position of the sealing. It stands between the grace which enables us to believe, and the glory which is our promised inheritance.

II. We will notice, secondly, what are the benefits of this sealing, and while we are so doing, we shall be compelled to state what we think that sealing is, though that is to be the subject of the third head. No, brethren, the Holy Spirit does not make the promises sure, they are sure of themselves; God that cannot lie has uttered them, and therefore they cannot fail. Nor, my brethren, does the Holy Spirit make sure our interest in those promises; that interest in the promises was sure in the Divine decree, or ever the earth was, and is a matter of fact which cannot be changed. The promises are already sure to all the seed. The Holy Spirit makes us sure that the word is true and that we are concerned in it; but the promise was sure beforehand, and our interest in that promise was sure, too, from the moment in which it was bestowed upon us by the sovereign act of God. To understand our text, you must notice that it is bounded by two words, “In whom,” which two words are twice given in this verse. “In whom, after that ye believed, ye were sealed.” What is meant by “In whom”? The words signify “In Christ.” It is in Christ that the people of God are sealed. We must therefore understand this sealing as it would relate to Christ, since so far, and so far only, can it relate to us. Was our Lord sealed? Turn to John 6:27, and there you have this exhortation: “Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of Man shall give unto you: for Him hath God the Father sealed.” There is the clue to our text. “Him hath God the Father sealed:” for since our sealing is in Him, it must be the same sealing.

1. Notice, then, first, that the ever-blessed Son was sealed on the Father’s part by God’s giving a testimony to Him that He was indeed His own Son, and the sent one of the Lord. As when a king issues a proclamation, he sets his seal manual to it to say, “This is mine;” so when the Father sent His Son into the world, He gave Him this testimony, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” He said this in words, but how did He give a perpetual testimony by a seal, which should be with Him throughout life? It was by anointing Him with the Holy Spirit. The seal that Jesus was the Messiah was that the Spirit of God rested upon Him without measure. Hence we read expressions like these: “He was justified in the Spirit,” “He was declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.” “It is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth.” Now, the Spirit of God, wherever it abides upon a man, is the mark that that man is accepted of God. We say not that where the Spirit merely strives at intervals there is any seal of Divine favour, but where He abides it is assuredly so. The very fact that we possess the Spirit of God is God’s testimony and seal in us that we are His, and that as He has sent His Son into the world, even so does He send us into the world.

2. To our Lord Jesus Christ the Holy Spirit was a seal for His own encouragement. Our Lord condescended to restrain the power of His own Godhead, and as a servant He depended upon the Father for support. When He began His ministry He encouraged Himself thus--“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has sent Me to bind up the broken hearted.” He found His stimulus of service, He found the authorization of His service, He found His comfort and strength for service, in the fact that God had given Him the Holy Spirit. This was His joy.

3. An evidence to others.

4. A witness to the world. Christ “spake with authority.” Men knew not what Spirit He was of, but they knew they hated it, and straightway they began to oppose Hind. Those who have the same seal must expect the same treatment. Never in this world did the Spirit of promise appear without opposition from the spirit of bondage.

5. For perseverance to the end.

III. Consider the sealing itself. The very fact that the Spirit of God works in you to will and to do according to God’s good pleasure, is your seal; you do not require anything beyond. I do not say that any one operation of the Holy Spirit is to be regarded as the seal, but the whole of them together, as they prove His being within us, make up that seal. It is better, however, to keep to the doctrine that the Spirit of God in the believer is Himself the seal. Now let us look at what the context tells us about this.

1. If you read on, the apostle tells us that wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of God are part of the seal. See, then, if ye have believed in Jesus Christ the Spirit of God comes upon you, and He gives you wisdom and revelation. Doctrines in the Word which you never understood before become clear to you “the eyes of your understanding being enlightened”; the blessings promised are more distinctly discerned, and you see “the hope of your calling, and the riches of the glory of the Lord’s inheritance in the saints.” The deeper truths, which at first quite staggered and puzzled you, gradually open up to you, and you see and appreciate them,.

2. Following on to the next chapter you will see that the Spirit of God works in every man who possesses Him life, and that life becomes another form of the seal. “You hath He quickened who were dead in trespasses and sin.” That life is of a new kind, and has a renewing power, so that men forsake the course of this world, and no longer fulfil the desires of the flesh and of the mind. This new life they trace to God, who is rich in mercy, who in His great love wherewith He loved them, even when they were dead in sins, hath quickened them together with Christ.

3. Go on a little further, and you will notice upon the seal a further mark--fellowship (Ephesians 2:12-14). Those who have believed in Jesus Christ are led by the Spirit of God to love their fellow Christians, and thus “we know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.”

4. Even more striking is that which follows, namely, that we have fellowship with God. The apostle speaks of us as reconciled unto God by the Cross, by which the enmity is slain, and he says of our Lord, “Through Him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.” I am following the course of the chapter. When you and I feel that we commune with God, that there is no quarrel between Him and us, that He is loved of us as we are loved of Him, that we can draw near to Him in prayer and speak to Him, that He hears us and deigns to grant us gracious answers of peace, these are blessed seals of salvation.

5. The apostle next puts in up building (Ephesians 2:20-21). Are you not conscious, believers, that you are being built up unto a divinely glorious form, after a high and noble model?

6. Last of all, the second chapter finishes up by saying, “In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit, and this seems to me to gather up all that I have said before. The indwelling of the Spirit in the saints, in the whole of them united, and in each one in particular, is a choice seal. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The great Christian gift

This sacred presence of the Holy Spirit of God in our hearts, with its three great effects--

The seal of God

I. What does the sealing mean? Clearly it is a figurative expression. To be “sealed” by God implies that we are His and loved by Him--that we are in that sense distinguished from the world at large--that His love is free, unmerited, simply a gift of His affection--that it secures us, and keeps us safe forever; and it is in this way that the believer looks up and perceives his blessed state in the sight of God.

II. How long is this sealing to endure? It is not to last forever; but “until the redemption of the purchased possession.”

III. Who are the parties that are thus sealed? The redeemed from among men. Unconverted, ungodly, and worldly men have no part in this. (H. M. Villiers, M. A.)

The Spirit’s seal

What is this seal? It is a signet, or a signet ring, used by kings and others, for various important ends, some of which we shall now mention.

1. The seal was attached to letters to give them the royal authority; and so the Church is the epistle of Christ, known and read by all men (2 Corinthians 3:3). The gifts and Daces of the Holy Spirit are the seal of God upon this epistle of His mercy, where the nations of the world and the angels of heaven may read His manifold wisdom (Ephesians 3:10).

2. The seal is used to secure the possession of property (Romans 15:28), and to show that it belongs to a particular master and no other. It has His seal. Jesus Christ has purchased His people with His own precious blood, and the sealing of the Spirit is the mark that they belong to Him.

3. As the seal is the conclusion of the letter or the agreement, so it signifies often the last, the end, the perfection; thus the Moslems call Mohammed the seal of the prophets, viz., the last and most glorious of them. In this respect also the sealing of the Spirit is full of meaning. He is the last of the heavenly witnesses, and to blaspheme Him is certain destruction. (W. Graham, D. D.)

Sealed

We have been already told we were chosen! blessed! adopted! accepted! redeemed! forgiven! and made an heritage! in Christ. Now, in addition to all, this great fact is added: “In whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise.” This is the consummation of our Divine security. The shepherds of earthly flocks seal them separately with their own name, for distinction and identification. Their seal is a dead thing, but it marks the owner’s property. God seals his flock individually for His own possession by a living seal--the Holy Ghost. The metaphor here employed alludes to the ordinary use of a seal amongst men.

1. A seal is affixed to valuable property for its protection, identification, and security. It does not make the property precious, or give it value; but because it is valuable the owner seals it for its protection. Because we are valuable to God, the Holy Ghost seals us. We are His jewels: united to Christ, members of His body, and therefore the Holy Ghost seals us.

2. A seal is affixed to a man’s act and deed, to make it irreversible.

3. A seal affixed is a public attestation and token of the sealer’s promise, purpose, and undertaking. When the believer is sealed with the Holy Spirit, this is God’s public assertion before earth and heaven that His act and will and deed is the salvation of His redeemed.

4. A seal imparts its own image and likeness to that which is sealed. “That which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” A new understanding, a new will, new affections, a new creation--a divine nature! God’s Spirit seals Christ into the soul!

5. A seal establishes a matter. See 2 Corinthians 1:21 (where this is defined): “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.”

6. Probably there may be an allusion to Acts 19:1-16. Formerly such signs followed; but now we live by faith, not by sight. If it be asked, “How, then, can I know if I am sealed?” By the actings and operations of the Holy Ghost! After that ye heard the gospel of your salvation, ye also trusted, and after that ye believed ye were sealed. Have we heard the gospel? Not only with the outward ear, but also with the heart, the inward ear. If this is so indeed, then give the Holy Ghost the credit: He it is who alone has opened your eyes. In Christ a man is called into a new position in the world, a witness for Christ; he is made a new creature in Christ, and the Holy Ghost imparts a new nature, and stamps the impress of God’s likeness upon the character, to fit him for the new position he is to occupy. All believers are thus sealed, and equally so. They are equally united to Christ, and equally indwelt by the Holy Ghost. Why, then, are some Christians so much less holy, happy, assured, than others? The answer is suggested in the text: “Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” Alas! we grieve the Holy Spirit. There is no question as to His sealing us; but can a man who grieves Him in his daily walk and conversation be as happy, holy, assured as the man who lives to Serve Him? (M. Rainsford, B. A.)

The sealing of the Spirit

Whoever longs for a feeling of security--whoever sighs for a fuller certainty of God’s love--to that man it will be a pleasant thought that one of the offices of the Holy Spirit is to “seal.” And it will make it the more happy for every Christian to receive this “seal,” if he recollect, for a moment, that his Master Himself had it--for Christ testified it, concerning His own person and His own work--“Him hath God the Father sealed”--which word, “sealed,” we are to understand to refer, first, to His baptism, when “the water,” and “the voice,” and “the dove,” all designated His grace and mission; next, to His miracles--those witnesses of His power and His truth--but still more to His own infinite perfections, and His spotless reflection of the Father’s character--through all which Christ was stamped, for His vast enterprise. Though we can only have in small measure, what He had “without measure,” still the very same “sealing”; in baptism--grace--good works--and God’s own likeness. Now, in this “sealing,” the first, and I might say only, requisite--for God will take care of the rest--is to have a soft and an impressible heart. And, thank God, the “Sealer” is the Softener--for He prepares His own work! Why, the great end, brethren, of half which happens to you in life--inwardly and outwardly--is to turn the iron of nature into the wax of grace. Here is the ecstasy of childhood--here is the immense importance of yielding to early drawings. Who can tell the hardening influence, day by day, upon the man, who is daily leading a worldly life? Who can tell the callousness, which one allowed sin is always depositing upon a man’s life? And what is the consequence? There is an end to “sealing.” The heart cannot take an impression. It is when one is able to say, “My heart is like melted wax,” that the “sealing” begins. The handle of “the seal” may be what God pleases. It may be a promise--it may be a word--it may be the Bible--it may be a sacrament--it might be my preaching at this moment. But the actual “seal” is beautifully described by St. Paul to Timothy. It has two sides. The one is God’s own electing love; the other is personal holiness. What stamps any man a child of God? First, God’s free choice and favour. What next? The sanctifying of the Holy Ghost--in him and on him. And thus God puts the two together, and sums it up--“Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are His. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ, depart from iniquity.” This, then, is “the seal”--exactly what you would have expected it to be--His own sovereignty, side by side with His own image. Now, the effect of this “sealing of the Spirit” will be threefold. First, in its very nature it unites; and to be fastened, indissolubly fastened, to Christ--we in Him, and He in us; we in Him for our justification, and He in us for our sanctification--is exactly the first thing a poor sinner needs. This fastening the soul to Christ, the Spirit does. And He does it thus: He brings us near; first, Christ to us, and then us to Christ; He makes Him attractive, pleasant, precious, necessary, to a man’s soul: and then the man’s soul confiding, communing, all-abandoning to Christ. Then He draws the two closer ant closer, till He rivets, with thousands of acts of love downwards, and thousands of little thoughts of gratitude upwards--passing and repassing--till He binds all--with His own Omniscience and with His own Omnipotence--and “the seal” is made. Secondly, it is a man’s credential, that he has the Lord authorizing him and empowering him. It is a man’s credential to himself. Is there the conscience within a man which will tell him when he is a Christian? Will there be a voice, and may a man believe that voice? Assuredly. How could it be otherwise? Can the great Presence of God be in a man and not speak? It tells a man; and, while it is telling him, it awakens a voice within the man, to repeat it to himself. “The Spirit itself also beareth witness with our spirits”--the voice of the echo--“that we are the children of God.” But not to ourselves only. Do not you know, brethren, that every one--who is a believer--is an epistle, to be “known and read of all men”? and that God has sent you out, like a letter; and that the letter is directed to the whole world--that the whole world may “read” you. And the world will “read” you. Whatever else the world may choose to “read,” or not “read,” they will “read” you. And to this very end the Spirit has “sealed” you, and set you apart by “the sealing”--that all men may “read Christ” in you; and that you, having His name and His likeness, may go, accredited, to all men, and that you may carry Him--His love--His work--His glory--into every society wherever you go. Therefore go--go, as a man who has a royal mark--go, as a man who is made for one purpose--go, as a man who has authority given him to speak! And thirdly, “the seal” is for safe keeping and holy preservation. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)

The true position of assurance

Many sincerely seeking souls are in great trouble because they have not yet attained to an assurance of their interest in Christ Jesus; they dare not take any comfort from their faith because they suppose that it has not attained to a sufficient strength. Their mistake seems to me to be this--they look for ripe fruit upon a tree in spring, and because that season yields nothing but blossoms, they conclude the tree to be barren. They go to the head of a river--they find it a little rippling brook, and because it will not float a “Great Eastern,” they conclude that it will never reach the sea, and that, in fact, it is not a true part of the river at all. They look upon themselves as being little children, and such they are; but because they cannot speak plainly on account of having been so newly born, they therefore conclude that they are not the children of God at all. They put the last things first. They make comforts essentials. There are three steps by which the hallowed elevation is reached. The first is hearing--they heard first the preaching of the Word; the second is believing; and then, thirdly, “after that ye believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.”

I. To begin then, faith cometh by hearing. The preaching of the gospel is God’s soul-saving ordinance. It hath pleased God by the “foolishness of preaching” to save them that believe. In every age God raiseth up men who faithfully proclaim His Word, and, as one departs, another arrives. Elijah ascends to glory, but his mantle falls upon Elisha. Paul dies not until Timothy is in the field. The true preacher has a claim upon men’s attention. If God has sent him, men should receive him. The hearing of the gospel involves the hearer in responsibility.

II. After hearing came belief. We know that believing does not always follow hearing immediately. There is a case told of Mr. Flavel having preached a sermon which was blessed to a man, I think eighty-five years afterwards, so that the seed may lay long buried in dust; yet, had not that man heard that sermon, speaking after the manner of men, he had not received the quickening Word. You may have heard the gospel long in vain, and it should be to you a source of very serious inquiry if you have done so. Faith will yet, we trust, come while you are hearing.

1. This belief, you observe, is called trusting. Kindly look at the verse: “In whom ye also trusted.” The translators have borrowed that word “trusted,” very properly, from the twelfth verse. Do not, because you see it in italics, think that is not properly there. It is not in the original, but being in the twelfth verse it is very rightly understood here. Believing then is trusting. If you want it summed up in the shortest word, it is just this--trusting Christ. A message comes to me upon good authority--I believe it; believing it, I necessarily trust it. My receiving of the message is so far good, but the essential act, the act essential to salvation, is the trusting--the trusting Christ. The process of faith may be thus illustrated. You knew a friend of yours to be perfectly reliable--you are in debt. He tells you that if you will trust him to pay the debt, he will give you on the spot a receipt for it. Now, you look at him, you consider his ability to pay it, you consider the probability that he means what he is saying. Having once made up your mind that he is truthful, you could not then say, “I cannot believe you.” If you once know that person to be truthful, I utterly deny that you can hold any argument about your power to believe him. So, if Jesus Christ declares that He “came into the world to save sinners,” and, if He tells me, as He does tell me, that “whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life”--if I am already enabled by God’s Spirit to believe in the perfect truthfulness of Christ, I should be lying unto my own soul if I said I had not power to believe in Him. Understand, power to believe in Christ is the gift of the Holy Spirit. But the Holy Spirit has given that power to all men who know the perfect truthfulness of Christ.

2. Observe this, further, that faith is due to Christ. The faithful and true Witness demands of me that I should believe what He says. Not trust God’s own Son, the Mighty God, the Redeemer of men! It is due to Him that thou shouldst with thy whole heart lean upon Him, and give Him all thy confidence.

3. This faith is essential to salvation. Assurance is not essential, but no man can be saved unless he trusteth in the Lord Jesus Christ. You may get to heaven with a thousand doubts and fears; you may get to heaven without some of those graces of the Spirit which are the ornaments of the believer’s neck, but you cannot get there without the life-giving grace of faith.

4. Remark, again, this faith is not required in any particular degree. In order to salvation, it is not declared in Scripture that you are to believe to a certain strength, but if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed--if that be a mountain-moving faith, surely it shall be a soul-saving faith. Faith is not to be estimated by its quantity but by its quality.

5. Observe, further, that this faith is very variable, but it is not perishable. Faith may go to an ebb, as the tide does, but it will come to a flood again. When faith is at its flood, the man is not therefore the more saved; and when faith is at its ebb, the man is not therefore the less saved; for, after all, salvation does not lie in faith, but in Christ; and faith is but the connecting link between the soul and Christ. Faith may take Christ up in its arms, like Simeon, and it is true faith; but, on the other hand, faith may only venture to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment, and that faith makes men whole.

III. The Holy Spirit’s sealing.

1. This sealing is evidently distinct from faith--“after that ye believed, ye were sealed.” Believing, then, is not this sealing; and assurance, although it be akin to believing, is not believing. There is a distinction between the two things. I want you to notice the distinction. In faith the mind is active. The text uses verbs which imply action: “ye trusted,” “ye believed”; but when it comes to sealing it uses quite another verb: “ye were sealed.” I am active in believing--I am passive when the Holy Spirit seals me. The witness of the Spirit is a something which I receive, but faith is a something which I exercise as well as receive. In faith my mind does something, in being sealed my faith receives something. If I may say so, faith writes out the document, there she labours, but the Holy Spirit stamps the seal Himself, and there is no hand wanted there except His own. He stamps His own impression to make the document valid.

2. It is clear from the context that assurance follows faith--“after that ye believed.” The apostle does not say how soon. Brookes gives the case of a Mr. Frogmorton, who was one of the most valuable ministers of his day, but was thirty-seven years without any assurance of his interest with Christ; he did trust Christ, but his ministry was always a gloomy one, for he could not read his title clear to mansions in the skies. He went to the house of a dear friend, Mr. Dodd, to die, and just before he died, the light of heaven streamed in--he not only expressed his full assurance of faith, but triumphed so gloriously, that he was the wonder of all round about him. He also tells us of one Mr. Glover, who had been for years without assurance of his interest in Christ; but when he came to the fire to be burnt, just as he saw the stake, he cried, “He is come! He is come!” and instead of being heavy of heart as he had been in prison, he went to the stake with a light step. Three martyrs were once chained to the stake, two of them rejoicing; but one was observed to slip from under the chains for a moment, and prostrate himself upon the faggots and wrestle with God, and then coming back to the stake, he said, “The Lord has manifested Himself to me at the last, and now I shall burn bravely.” So, indeed, he did, bearing his witness for his Lord and Master. Assurance, then, is not to be looked for before faith. You might as well look for the pinnacle before the foundation; for the cream before the milk; for the apples before you plant the tree; for the harvest before you sow the seed. Assurance follows faith.

3. Assurance is to be found where faith was found. “In whom ye also trusted”--as I get my faith out of Christ, so I must get my assurance out of Christ.

4. This assurance, like faith, is the work of the Spirit of God. “Ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.” He does this in various ways. Sometimes we get the seal of the Spirit through experience. We know that God is true because we have proved Him. Sometimes this comes through the hearing of the Word--as we listen our faith is confirmed. But there is doubtless besides this, a special and supernatural work of the Holy Spirit, whereby men are assured that they are born of God. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Believers are sealed

Call it sealing, or what you will, it is a fact that believers in Christ, of every age, have enjoyed an inward, filial assurance, of which we certainly hear nothing from the mere students of nature. It is well known, moreover, that the more sharply the believer’s confidence has been tried, the more steadfast and triumphant it has become. How is it to be accounted for, that nature does not seal her disciples in the same way? They do not possess the restful certitude, and the joyous hope, of believers. Why do they not? Let others answer this question as they may, we answer, The Holy Spirit will not testify that nature has “The Word of Truth,” namely, “The Gospel of our Salvation”; nor will He assure the disciples of nature that they are the children and heirs of God. “The testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of prophecy.” “When He, the Spirit of Truth is come … He shall glorify Me.” “Hereby know ye the Spirit of God--every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God … Hereby know we the Spirit of Truth and the spirit of error.” “We are in Him that is true, even in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.” Believers, then, are “sealed with the Holy Spirit,” for no other reason, than that they are “in the Truth.” Temporal nature is a division,--only a part of that which is perfect. Christ is unity. The men who believe in the results of scientific observation, rather than in “the Gospel of our Salvation,” will discover some day that they, and “the Truth,” are on opposite sides. They are the disciples of nature’s facts, but at variance with truth in its eternal form. Moreover, as the only enduring and all-controlling Power must be God’s truth, they will, sooner or later, find it to be a very unhappy thing, to stand opposed to the supreme governing Power of the universe and eternity. (John Pulsford.)

Relation to God experienced

It was in the course of studies in the Campo Santo of Pisa, in 1845, assisted by daily reading of the Bible, that Mr. Ruskin came into vital knowledge “of the relations that might truly exist between God and His creatures.” On his journey homewards he became ill, and the thought of the pain which his death might occasion to his father and mother preyed upon his mind. He thereupon “fell gradually into the temper, and more or less tacit offering, of very real prayer,” Through “two long days, and what I knew of the nights,” he continued in this mental attitude of earnest prayer. What followed is the memorable experience of which we have spoken. “On the third day, as I was about coming in sight of Paris, what people who are in the habit of praying know as the consciousness of answer came to me; and a certainty that the illness, which had all this while increased, it anything, would be taken away. Certainty in mind, which remained unshaken, through unabated discomfort of body, for another night and day, and then the evil symptoms vanished in an hour or two, on the road beyond Paris; and I found myself in the inn at Beauvais entirely well, with a thrill of conscious happiness altogether new to me.” The “happy sense of direct relation with heaven” experienced by Mr. Ruskin was not permanent. “Little by little, and for little, yet it seemed invincible, causes,” he says, “it passed away from me.” But he chronicles its departure as the gravest of all his losses, and evinces no doubt that it was a reality while it lasted. The same state of mind has, he remarks, been “known evidently to multitudes of human souls of all faiths, and in all lands.” Often it was, he has no doubt, a dream; but often, also, he conceives it to have been “demonstrably a reality.” If it has been a reality, in the innumerable multitude of cases in which it has been experienced, from that of Abraham to that of Bishop Hannington, then the fact of intercourse between God and man is scientifically verified.

Testimony of experience

From curiosity, a lawyer entered a meeting for the relation of Christian experience, and took notes. But so impressed was he that at the close he arose and said, “My friends, I hold in my hands the testimony of no less than sixty persons who have spoken here this morning, who all testify with one consent that there is a Divine reality in religion; they having experienced its power in their own hearts. Many of these persons I know. Their word would be received in any court of justice. Lie they would not, I know; and mistaken they cannot all be. I have hitherto been sceptical in relation to these matters. I now tell you that I am fully convinced of the truth, and that I intend to lead a new life. Will you pray for me?” (Dr. Haven.)

Assurance; or, the Spirit’s sealing

I. The subject of assurance, which is and can be no other than a soul that hath closed with Christ by faith. Reflex acts necessarily presuppose direct ones.

II. The nature of assurance. He calls it sealing--an apt metaphor to express the nature of it; for assurance, like a seal, both confirms, declares, and “distinguishes; it confirms the grant of God, declares the purpose of God, and distinguishes the person so privileged from other men.

III. The author of assurance, which is the Spirit. He is the keeper of the great seal of heaven; and ‘tis His office to confirm and seal the believer’s right and interest in Christ in heaven (Romans 8:16).

IV. Lastly, the quality of this spirit of assurance, or the sealing Spirit. He seals in the quality of an Holy Spirit, and of the Spirit of promise. As an Holy Spirit, relating to His previous sanctifying work upon the sealed soul; as the Spirit of promise, respecting the medium or instrument made use of by Him in His sealing work; for He seals by opening and applying the promises to believers from the Spirit’s order. (J. Flavel.)

The double seal

The sealing of the Spirit is, His giving a sure and certain testimony to the reality of that work of grace He hath wrought in our souls, and to our interest in Christ and the promises, thereby satisfying our fears and doubts about our estate and condition. Every matter of weight and concernment is to be proved by two sufficient witnesses (Deuteronomy 19:15). Our sincerity and interest in Christ are matters of the deepest concernment to us in all the world, and therefore need a further witness to confirm and clear them than that of our own spirits (Romans 8:16). Three things concur to the Spirit’s sealing work. He sanctifies the soul; He irradiates and clears that work of sanctification; He enables it thereby to apply promises. The first is His material or objective seal; the latter His formal sealing. None but the Spirit of God can clear and confirm our title to Christ, for He only searcheth the deep things of God (1 Corinthians 2:10); and it is His office (Romans 8:16) to witness with our spirits. This seal or witness of the Spirit must needs be true and certain, because omniscience and truth are His essential properties. He is Omniscient (1 Corinthians 2:10), and therefore cannot be deceived Himself. He is the Spirit of truth (John 14:17), and therefore cannot deceive us; so that His testimony is more infallible and satisfactory than a voice from heaven (2 Peter 1:19). If an angel should appear, and tell us Christ had said to him, Go and tell such a man that I love him, that I shed My blood for him, and will save him, it could never give that repose and satisfaction to the mind as the internal witness or seal of the Spirit doth; for that may be a delusion, but this cannot. The witness of our own heart may amount to a strong probability, but the witness of the Spirit is demonstration (John 4:24). So that as it is the design and work of Satan to cast in doubts and fears into gracious hearts, to perplex and entangle them, so, oppositely, it is the work of the Spirit to clear and settle the sanctified soul, and fill it with peace and joy in believing (John 16:7; Romans 14:17). In sealing He both attests the doctrine or object of faith, and the infused habit or grace of faith. Of the former He saith, This is My word, of the latter, this is My work; and His seal or testimony is evermore agreeable to the written word (Isaiah 8:20). So that what He speaks in our hearts, and what He saith in the Scripture, are evermore concordant and harmonious testimonies. To conclude: In sealing the believer He doth not make use of an audible voice, nor the ministry of angels, nor immediate and extraordinary revelations, but He makes use of His own graces implanted in our hearts, and His own promises written in the Scriptures; and in this method He usually brings the doubting, trembling heart of a believer to rest and comfort. (J. Flavel.)

The sealing of the Spirit

How sweet it is. This is the manna in the golden pot; the white stone, the wine of paradise which cheers the heart. How comfortable is God’s smile! the sun is more refreshing when it shines out than when it is hid in a cloud; it is a prelibation and a foretaste of glory, it puts a man in heaven before his time; none can know how delicious and ravishing it is but such as have felt it; as none can know how sweet honey is, but those who have tasted it. (T. Watson.)


Verse 14

Ephesians 1:14

Which is the earnest of our inheritance.

The Holy Spirit the earnest of our inheritance

I. The Holy Spirit imparts heavenly knowledge to the mind, and is thus the earnest of our inheritance.

1. Heaven’s glory will consist partly in the direct and full vision of God, whom the redeemed shall see, no longer darkly as through a glass, but “face to face.” They will possess an immediate and intuitive knowledge of God in their minds, and as far as finite can comprehend the infinite, they will enjoy a clear perception of His nature and perfections, sufficient for their perfect satisfaction and blessedness. This knowledge is the most excellent possession which the intellect of man can conceive. It is the loftiest, the purest, and the most comprehensive of all kinds of knowledge. What a piece of goodness and condescension is it on God’s part to give unto us His blessed Word, inspired of the Holy Ghost, as a means to dispel the darkness of our minds and bring us to the knowledge of “the only true God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent, which is eternal life”! He the glory of heaven alights upon earth, dimmed, it may be indeed, by the earthly atmosphere, but still essentially the same. If God the Spirit is to speak to man, if He is to communicate the knowledge of God to us in our imperfect state, He must use the language of man--the language of earth; and He must also have respect to our weak capacities. In the Bible we have a clear and sufficient revelation of God. This light is furnished by the Holy Spirit.

2. Let us also notice another department of knowledge in which the Spirit so instructs believers as to become “an earnest” of heaven. We refer to the method of Divine Providence, a subject full of high and profitable instruction, but often difficult and inscrutable.

II. The Holy Spirit is an earnest of the inheritance by the peace and joy and comfort which He imparts to the soul. The essential elements of the saints’ inheritance, apart from any outward sources of heavenly riches, will consist in a full and perfectly satisfying knowledge of God and His works, in a pure and perfect love dwelling in their hearts, and in a constant and ineffable joy filling their souls like a river. The vision of God, perfect love, and boundless delight, will go together to make up heaven’s happiness--light, love, joy--a triune blessedness. (W. Alves, M. A.)

The earnest of heaven

So, then, heaven, with all its glories, is an “inheritance.” Not a thing that can be bought with money, earned by labour, or won by conquest. It comes by birth; it is given to the man who shall receive it, because he has been “begotten again unto a lively hope,” etc. They who come unto glory are sons. But is it possible for us, provided that heaven be our inheritance, and we are God’s sons--is it possible for us to know anything whatever of that land beyond the flood? It is. God’s Spirit can turn the veil aside for a moment, and bid us take a glimpse, though it be but a distant one, at that unutterable glory. There are Pisgahs even now on the surface of the earth, from the top of which the celestial Canaan can be beheld; there are hallowed hours in which the mists and clouds are swept away, and the sun shines in his strength, and our eye, being freed from its natural dimness, beholds something of that land which is very far off, and sees a little of the joy and blessedness which is reserved for the people of God hereafter. The text tells us that the Holy Spirit is the “earnest” of the inheritance--not merely a pledge, but a foretaste of that which shall be enjoyed in full hereafter--the first-fruits of the eternal harvest.

I. First, then, there are some works of the Spirit which are peculiarly an earnest to the child of God of the blessings of heaven.

1. And, first, heaven is a state of rest. It may be because I am constitutionally idle that I look upon heaven in the aspect of rest with greater delight than under any other view of it, with but one exception. To let the head, which is so continually exercised, for once lie still--to have no care, no trouble, no need to labour, to strain the intellect, or vex the limbs! It is a rest which puts from them all carking care, all harrowing remorse, all thoughts of tomorrow, all straining after a something which they have not as yet. They are runners no more--they have reached the goal; they are warriors no more--they have achieved the victory; they are labourers no more--they have reaped the harvest. “They rest, saith the Spirit; they rest from their labours, and their works do follow them.” My beloved, did you ever enjoy on certain high days of your experience a state of perfect rest? You could say you had not a wish in all the world ungratified: you knew yourself to be pardoned; you felt yourself to be an heir of heaven; Christ was precious to you; you knew that you walked in the light of your Father’s countenance; you had cast all your worldly care on Him, for He cared for you. You felt at that hour that if death could smite away your dearest friends, or if calamity should remove the most valuable part of your possessions on earth, yet you could say, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” Your spirit floated along the stream of grace, without a struggle; you were not as the swimmer, who breasts the billows, and tugs and toils for life. Your soul was made to lie down in green pastures, beside the still waters. You were passive in God’s hands; you knew no will but His. Oh! that sweet day! It was a morsel taken from the loaf of delights; it was a sip out of the wine vats of immortal joy; it was silver spray from the waves of glory.

2. But, secondly, there is a passage in the Book of Revelation which may sometimes puzzle the uninstructed reader, where it is said concerning the angels, that “They rest not day and night”; and as we are to be as the angels of God, it must undoubtedly be true in heaven that, in a certain sense, they rest not day nor night. They always rest, so far as ease and freedom from care is concerned; they never rest, in the sense of indolence or inactivity. In heaven spirits are always on the wing; their lips are always singing the eternal hallelujahs unto the great Jehovah that sitteth upon the throne; they rest, but they rest on the wing; as the poet pictured the angel as he flew--not needing to move his wings, but resting, and yet darting swiftly through the ether, as though he were a flash shot from the eye of God. So shall it be with the people of God eternally; ever serving--never wearied with their service. “They rest not day and night.” Have there never been times with you when you have had both the pledge and the earnest of this kind of heaven?

3. Heaven is a place of communion with all the people of God. A heaven of people who did not know each other; and had no fellowship, could not be heaven, because God has so constituted the human heart that it loves society, and especially the renewed heart is so made that it cannot help communing with all the people of God. Have we anything on earth like this? Ay, that we have, in miniature. We have the pledge of this; for if we love the people of God, we may know that we shall surely be with them in heaven. We have the earnest of it; for how often has it been our privilege to hold the highest and sweetest fellowship with our fellow Christians!

4. Part of the bliss of heaven will consist in joy over sinners saved. The angels look down from the battlements of the city which hath foundations, and when they see prodigals return they sing. Jesus calleth together His friends and His neighbours, and He saith unto them, “Rejoice with Me, for I have found the sheep which was lost.”

5. But further than this--to put two or three thoughts into one, for brevity’s sake: whenever, Christian, thou hast achieved a victory over thy lusts--whenever, after hard struggling, thou hast laid a temptation dead at thy feet--thou hast had in that day and hour a foretaste of the joy that awaits thee, when the Lord shall shortly tread Satan under thy feet. That victory in the first skirmish is the pledge and the earnest of the triumph in the last decisive battle. If thou hast overthrown one foe, thou shalt overthrow them all. Oh, Christian, there are many windows to heaven, through which God looks dawn on thee; and there are some windows through which thou mayest look up to Him. Let these past enjoyments be guarantees of thy future bliss; let them be to thee as the grapes of Eshcol were to the Jews in the wilderness; they wore the fruit of the land, and when they tasted them they said, “It is a land that floweth with milk and honey.” These enjoyments are the products of Canaan; they are handfuls of heavenly flowers thrown over the wall; they are bunches of heaven’s spices, brought to thee by angel hands across the stream. Heaven is full of joys like these. Thou hast but a few of them; heaven is strewn with them. There thy golden joys are but as stones, and thy most precious joys are as common as the pebbles of the brook. Now thou seest the glimmerings of heaven as a star twinkling from leagues of distance; follow that glimmering, and thou shalt see heaven no more as a star, but as the sun which shineth in its strength.

6. Permit me to remark yet once more, there is one foretaste of heaven which the Spirit gives which it were very wrong for us to omit. And now I shall seem, I dare say, to those who understand not spiritual mysteries, to be as one that dreams. There are moments when the child of God has real fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ. You know what fellowship between man and man means. There is as real a fellowship between the Christian and Christ. Our eyes can look on Him. I say not that these human optics can behold the very flesh of Christ; but I say that the eyes of the soul can here on earth more truly see Christ, after a spiritual sort, than ever eyes of man saw Him when He was in the flesh on earth. There are moments with the believer when, whether in the body or out of the body, he cannot tell--God knoweth--but this he knows, that Christ’s left hand is under his head, and His right hand doth embrace him. Christ hath shown to him His hands and His side. He could say with Thomas, “My Lord and my God”; but he could not say much more. The world recedes; it disappears. The things of time are covered with a pall of darkness; Christ only stands out before the believer’s view.

7. I do not doubt, also, that on dying beds men get foretastes of heaven which they never had in health. When Death begins to pull down the old clay house, he knocks away much of the plaster, and then the light shines through the chinks. The nearer to death, the nearer to heaven, with the believer; the more sick, the nearer he is to health.

II. The black reverse of this picture. There is another world, for the wicked as well as for the righteous. They who believe not in Christ are no more annihilated than those who do believe in Him. If thou be this day without God and without Christ in the world, thou hast in thyself a few sparks of that eternal fire. Ungodly, unconverted men, have an uneasiness of spirit; they are never contented; they want something; if they have that, they will want something more. They do not feel happy; they see through the amusements which the world presents to them; they are wise enough to see that they are hollow; they understand that the fair cheek is painted; they know that its beauty is but mere pretence; they are not befooled; God has awakened them. Now, when a man gets into that uneasy state, he may make a guess of what hell will be. It will be that uneasiness intensified, magnified to the extreme. But unconverted men without Christ have another curse, which is a sure foretaste to them of hell. They are uneasy about death. I have my mind now upon a person who trembles like an aspen leaf during a thunderstorm. But those dreads of death are but the foreshadows of that darker gloom which must gather round your spirit, except you believe in Christ. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The earnest of an inheritance

An earnest is something given beforehand, to indicate and assure one of a greater good yet to come. It is a part of a man’s wages, and a pledge of the rest. It is a part of the price paid for anything bought, and a pledge of the residue. Here the figure is commercial. “Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession.” It is a bounty which not only is valuable itself, but points to more value yet to come. It is used, in the New Testament, as substantially equivalent to the harvest term, first-fruits; and in some passages the two terms, earnest and first-fruits, are used interchangeably. The coming harvest is more advanced in some parts than in others. The owner gathers a handful of the earliest ripe grain, plucks the first yellow apple, singles out the purple cluster that is soonest ripe; and such early gatherings are, to be sure, good for what they are of themselves; but this is as nothing compared with what they promise and prophesy. One handful of grain gives the farmer promise of vast harvests just coming forward. One apple is forerunner of ten thousand. I wish today to illustrate this general truth, that God gives to His children, in this world, intimations of that to which they are coming in the next world--first-fruits of joys, and experiences, and revelations, which they are to reap in full harvest by and by.

1. The general result of life, in teaching men how to employ themselves, gives us glimpses of that higher life to which we are coming--and only glimpses. Men are started in this world with some two score of separate faculties, which they do not know how to use--which they certainly do not know how to use together. A voyage we are put upon, with an undisciplined crew. They are rebellious, in part; none of them know how to work; some of them are too young; some of them are green; and all of them are to be trained before the voyage is ended. New machinery needs to wear smooth. But what if the machinery had to grow before it could perform its functions? What if part of the wheels were mere seed forms, and had to grow up into their different proportions and relations before they could work together? Nay, what if each wheel and spring was a voluntary agent, and had to consent to work instead of being coerced by physical laws? This would come nearer to what is taking place in every human soul. See, now, what this state of mind in this world comes to. How thoroughly the mind is waked up! How it learns to cooperate in all its parts! How much it gains in breadth, force, facility! And, above all, how strange the material history is, of passions, affections, moral sentiments, intellectual forces, and the will, in various conflicts, and in a common school of discipline, uniting into one final character, and working towards a perfect subordination and harmony! “It doth not yet appear what we shall be”--it does not yet appear what a perfect character will be; but we do see, on every side, that there are startings forth of every part of our nature, and that, while travelling differing paths, they are converging--coming nearer and nearer together.

2. There are moments of fortunate conjunction in this life, in which the body, the feelings, the intellect, all parts of our being, are in such exquisite harmony with each other, and are liked up with such rare stimulus, that we think more and easier in one single moment than in days of ordinary life. I recollect to have stood upon a hill in Amherst, where the college is, and where is spread out one of the most glorious panoramas on earth, and witnessed a scene of rare interest. The landscape below was hid from my view. I could see here and there the top of some mountain, but the whole vast basin was as white as milk, enveloped as it was in exquisite morning mists. By and by one could see great undulations in the fleecy mass. The sun was working at it, and hurling his arrows of heat into it. Soon it began to break away; and I do not know how it could have been removed so suddenly, but in a minute, almost, not only did there appear great openings through it, but the whole immense ocean of mist and fog was lifted up, and I saw all at once the entire sweep of the valley beneath it. Thus out of the dust and din and mist and obscurations of life there come moments when God permits us to see in a second further, wider, and easier than by the ordinary methods of logic we can see in a whole life.

3. But there are, in connection with the occurrence of these states, some facts of great significance over and above the sense of that large life which we are coming to in the future. When any single feeling is strong in us, and kindled to white heat, the intellect perceives the truths which that feeling interprets, with a clearness and amazing accuracy which nothing else ever gives. The heart teaches the head. A large part of the power of knowledge is located in the feelings. In the world to come our knowledge will be measured, not by the amount of thought power we have, but by the amount of heart power. The resources of heavenly understanding are not to be measured by the resources of scientific knowledge, nor by any capacity of knowing physical things. Our heavenly understanding is to be in the ratio of our moral sentiments, our loving affections. When we come to that supernatural state to which we are tending, we may suppose that the eye will perceive in the proportion that the heart gives its power to perceive; and the man that has the deepest, sweetest, and most noble feeling here will be the furthest seeing there.

4. There are, in this life, we might say, hours of judgment given to us. Christ promised the apostles that they should sit upon twelve thrones, and judge the twelve tribes of Israel. We are to judge time, and earth, and life. And we sometimes, even here, have such a view as does not, for days and years, pass from us, of what this world is, and what its issues are. Do you not, in advance, sit in judgment upon earthly things, and rank them by a golden reed reached forth and put into your hand, as it were, from heaven? I very well remember going back, after having arrived at years of manhood, to the school house where I did not receive my early education. I measured the stones which, in my childhood, it seemed that a giant could not lift, and I could almost turn them over with my foot. I measured the trees which seemed to loom up to the sky, wondrously large, but they had shrunk, grown shorter, and outspread narrower. I looked into the old school house, and how small the whittled benches and the dilapidated tables were, compared with my boyhood impression of them. I looked over the meadows across which my little toddling feet had passed: they had once seemed to me to be broad fields, but now but narrow ribbons, lying between the house and the water. I marvelled at the apparent change which had taken place in these things, and thought what a child I must have been when they seemed to me to be things of great importance. The school ma’am--oh, what a being I thought she was! and the schoolmaster--how awe-stricken I was in his presence! So, looking and wistfully remembering, I said to myself, “Well, one bubble has broken.” But when you shall stand above, and look back with celestial and clarified vision upon this world--this rickety old school house, earth--it will seem smaller to you than did to me that old village school!

5. Christians have earnests of things spiritual and invisible. Ordinarily, we are under the influence of the things which are seen. In our lower life we must be under the influence of sense. But now and then, we know not how, we rise into an atmosphere in which spirit life, God, Christ, the ransomed throng in heaven, virtue, truth, faith, and love, become more significant to us, and seem to rest down upon us with more force than the very things which our physical senses recognize. There is an atmosphere of the soul as well as an atmosphere of nature. I dwelt last summer on a spot which overlooks a great variety of scenery. Hills, mountains, valleys, and forests, may be seen from almost every part of it. There were times when a thick haze so prevailed that all the glory of hill, river, and mountain was hidden. At length would come up storm; a plunging rain, sweeping winds, and cleansing commotion. The storm brought light, and turmoil peace. For, that past, every tree stood forth in every lineament clear against the horizon, every line and furrow and scallop of hill was distinctly visible, and the mountains not only appeared in their proper shapes, but were out so plain that forty miles seemed scarcely four; and things before quite beyond the vision were advanced almost to the very gate of the senses. And so, in the atmosphere of the soul, God sometimes brings down the Divine landscape--heavenly truths--so clearly that the soul rests upon them as upon a picture let down.

7. In this world we have an earnest of the future world, as a realm of everlasting praise. As a traveller over rugged mountains and hills now and then passes through exquisite little dells, where beautiful and fragrant flowers greet him at every step, where rills gush from every rock, and every tree is full of singing birds, so that he cannot but say, “Oh, that I had a tabernacle here!” so, now and then, we pass into days that are grown all over with flowers fragrant with praise. All things seem beautiful; and we have a near and touching conviction that events flow from the gift-covered right hand of God, and that they are tokens of His particular thought of us! We say, “The lines have fallen to us in pleasant places”; and there is an irrepressible desire to render thanks, and earnest longing to give back love for love received. I do not know that there is any literature for this sense of gratitude except tears; and we can only stand before God and shake, as flowers shake when the wind blows upon them, and the dew drops off! The intimations which God is giving you are designed to be to you a means of grace, of instruction, of consolation, and of advancement in the Divine life. Look well at what God is revealing to you every day. There is much in it which you cannot afford to cast away. You will find that the interpretation of God’s Word to your soul stands largely in the experience He is working out in you. It is not necessary that we should be able to reason upon these intimations, and understand them in every particular. Some persons attempt to ascertain exactly to What they point. This is foolish. If I am lost in a forest, and have waited all night long to learn the points of the compass, I do not stop when morning comes to get a full view of the sun. As soon as I see a growing brightness in the east, I say to myself, “Now I know my direction; for that is east, and that is west, and that is north, and that is south.” I think there are thousands of intimations that we get which, although we cannot fully understand them, plainly indicate that they are designed of God to point out our way in this world; and that is enough. These partial views of the future--and not plenary ones--are just what we need to stimulate our hope and faith. They are transient, but they are long enough to work out God’s designs in us They come quickly, and go quickly; but if we are wise, their impressions upon us will be abiding. You men of prevision, you prophets, you seers, you that are lifted out of darkness into light that you may discern the marvellous things that belong to the children of God, have you anything in your experience which answers to what I have spoken? Are you able to see the future through the present? (H. W. Beecher.)

The assurance of the Christian inheritance

How is the assurance of the spiritual inheritance to be attained? is one of the most vital questions of Christian life; and men conscious of its importance have variously endeavoured to answer it. Is it by searching into our inward experiences that we become sure of the future kingdom, or by measuring our outward actions by the standards of spiritual morality? Are we to look for it in moments of peculiar ecstasy, or are there aspirations constantly present in the Christian soul which form Divine pledges of its reality? This question is one of great practical significance to us. Paul here gives us the answer--he speaks of the Holy Spirit sealing us with an earnest of the kingdom. Our subject, therefore, is, The assurance of the Christian inheritance: Its nature--“Sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise”; Its necessity - “Until the redemption of the purchased possession.”

I. Its nature.

1. The ground on which the certainty is founded. We have seen that Paul teaches that the promises given us by the Spirit are earnests of the future, and at once the question arises, How do we know that they are? By what right do we feel so sure that these hopes and aspirations of today are the infallible assurances of the kingdom of God tomorrow? At first sight, the ground of assurance may seem very doubtful. Every man has his dreams, his aspirations, which seem to him to be promises of what he might be, and every man has found out how often they are vain. Visions of the future haunt the child, and he imagines they will be realized, but as life advances they flee like shadows away. Many, perhaps most, men are afraid of the awful light which Hope throws on the dark future, and fear to trust the whisper she breathes within. The question, therefore, is most important: if, in actual life, we find these promises of hope so delusive, do they form any ground of assurance to the Christian? How separate the false from the true, or rely on such longings as earnests of a kingdom to come? That is a question we have a right to ask; and let us try to answer it clearly, because in reality there is one of the strongest grounds of assurance here. It is a great law that those deep and unconquerable longings of a man are earnests of what he might be; they are proofs of hidden power--flashes of sleeping capacity. What you long to be--so deeply that your longings become a very spirit of promise--you may be. Apply this to spiritual things. The longings of the Christian life are the promises and actual earnests of what we shall be, for they are the whispers of the Holy Spirit, who is omnipotent to realize the promises He utters. He creates longings for what He can and will bestow; and the expectation is the dawning of their fulfilment. Thus we have the assurance--the hope, the outflashing of hidden capacity, the germ of the hidden spirit life; and the longings and aspirations of the soul promising the future kingdom are the actual commencement and first-fruits of its glory.

2. We pass on to illustrate the manner in which this assurance rises in the soul. This inheritance of spiritual life consists of three great elements: love, power, blessedness.

II. Its necessity. Mark again the words, “Until the redemption of the purchased possession.” The inheritance is given, but not reached. Between the gift and its attainment there lies a long path of conflict, in which the old struggle between the flesh and the spirit reveals itself in three forms.

1. Sense against the soul. The body must be mastered, or it will master; its animalizing tendencies repressed, and brought into subjection.

2. The present against the future. We are constantly tempted to sell our heavenly birthright; to forget the eternal in the struggle for the temporal; to live carelessly here, for mere pleasure, regardless of our immortality.

3. Steadfast work against the roving propensities of the heart. We are ever prone to be discontented with the sphere in which God has placed us; to grow weary of the work which God has entrusted to us; to become faithless of the immortal harvest of spiritual toil; to despair, and to renounce the old quiet way of patient, persevering service to God. Therefore, until clothed with a spiritual body--until the temporal is changed fox the eternal--we have need of the assurance of our eternal inheritance. “Grieve not,” then, “the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” (E. L. Hull, B. A.)

The Holy Spirit an earnest of our inheritance

I. In what respects the Spirit is an earnest to us.

1. A pledge of something yet future.

2. A part of something hereafter to be received in its entirety. As such the Spirit itself will never pass away from the possession of the Church. It is in itself a final end and supreme blessedness. But in another aspect of its presence and work it is only a part of what shall be. Powers (as of faith and holiness) are awakened and developed by its influence within us which do not belong to our bodily nature, but are the beginnings of a higher life, hereafter to be perfected in the presence of God. And it is one of a number of manifestations belonging to a new supernatural order or kingdom, whose completeness and glory are yet to be revealed (2 Corinthians 4:18; 2 Corinthians 5:5). Above all, it is “the Spirit of Adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:4)--a consciousness which seems to open up infinite vistas of possibility (Romans 8:17; 1 John 3:1-2). We are thus brought into universal relations, and are indissolubly linked with the eternal and Divine.

II. What effect it is intended to produce. The Gentile Christians were “sealed” with it, and were thus--

1. Separated from unbelievers. As circumcision was a seal to Abraham of the personal acceptance with God of which he had been already assured (Genesis 15:6; Genesis 15:18; Genesis 17:11), so it became a seal to his children in the sense of separating them to God in covenant. In like manner the saints are said to be sealed with the name of the Lord (Revelation 22:4; Revelation 9:4), Something of the same general sense is conveyed by 2 Timothy 2:19. Christians are, by the indwelling of the Spirit, set apart, consecrated to God.

2. Confirmed in their own souls. By intensifying and rendering more vivid religious impressions and resolves, it seals believers “unto the day of redemption.” (A. F. Muir, M. A.)

The earnest of our inheritance

An earnest is part of that which is to follow, and it is of the same kind as that of which it is the earnest. The earnest is not withdrawn. In this it differs from a pledge or bond. A pledge or bond is restored or cancelled when it is fulfilled. God’s promise and oath are His pledges to His people, and they shall never be withdrawn till He has fulfilled His word. But the Holy Ghost given is the earnest of our inheritance; and he who gives an earnest pledges his faithfulness to give the rest. For this reason the earnest of the Spirit is called “the first fruits of the Spirit.” Now, the first fruits of the harvest were a part, sample, and earnest of the harvest which would follow. The first fruits, moreover, consecrated the coming harvest for the use of God’s people. The Holy Ghost is the earnest from God to us of His inheritance in us; and He is, also, the earnest to us of our inheritance in God. Now where the Spirit of the Lord is, the fruits of the Spirit follow. “As many as received Him.” Notice, all is in the receiving. It is not something we have to do or to suffer, but only to receive: “to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.” “And because ye are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father” (Galatians 4:6). We probably repeat the Lord’s Prayer daily. We call Him Father, alas! often without apprehending that He is our Father. Let us not mock God. Believers have a rich, mighty, loving Father; and if we, being evil, know how to give good things to our children, how much more will He “give His Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?” God first sends the life of His Son into the soul, and then the spirit of His Son into that soul. First God the Holy Ghost gives us to believe, and then He seals us as believers. He first gives us the seal of the Spirit, and then He makes the sealing Spirit to be the earnest of our inheritance. When we seal a document we remove the instrument that makes the impression; but when God seals it is altogether different, for He leaves the instrument with which He seals the soul to be the earnest of the inheritance “until the redemption of the purchased possession.” This earnest of the Spirit is not only our security, but also our ability for the enjoyment of our inheritance in faith here and in fruition hereafter. When the Holy Ghost is the earnest of our inheritance, everything of the believer’s is sealed unto the day of redemption. Our Head has been sealed. He is the head of all principality and power. “Him hath God the Father sealed” (John 6:27). He is our life, our title, our representative, our wisdom and righteousness, and sanctification and redemption. The foundation on which we rest is sealed. “The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are His, and, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity” (2 Timothy 2:19). (M. Rainsford, B. A.)

God’s Holy Spirit the earnest of our redemption

So much of the Spirit of grace and truth as we have here, is but the earnest and handsel of a greater sum, the seed and first fruits of a fuller harvest. Therefore the apostle mentions “a growing” change from glory to glory by the Spirit of God. We must not expect a fulness till “the time of the restitution of all things,” till that day of redemption and adoption, wherein the light, which is here but sown for the righteous, shall grow up into a full harvest of holiness and of glory. (Bp. Reynolds.)

The present and the future inheritance

“The Holy Spirit of promise,” given to all who believe, is here declared to dwell in and to seal believers as the “earnest” of their “inheritance;” whilst, on the other hand, that sealing is declared to last until--or, as seems more probably the rendering of the preposition here, to be done with a view unto--the full redemption of God’s purchased “possession.” So that the two halves of the thought are intentionally brought together in these words of our text. And about both of them--God’s possession of us and our possession of God--it is asserted or implied, that they are partially realized here, and are to be realized more fully in the future. An “earnest” is a portion of the estate which is paid over to the purchaser on the completion of the purchase, as the token that all is his and that it will all come into his hands in due time. Like that part of a man’s wages given to him in advance when he is engaged; like the shilling put into the hands of a recruit; like the half crown given to the farm servant at the hiring fair; like the bit of turf that in some old ceremonials used to be solemnly presented to the sovereign on his investiture; it is a portion of the whole possession, the same in kind, but a very tiny portion, which yet carries with it the acknowledgment of ownership and the assurance of full possession. So says my text, “the Spirit of God is the earnest of the inheritance,” a small portion of it granted to us today, and the pledge that all shall be granted in the future. And the same idea of present imperfection is suggested in the corresponding clause, which speaks about God’s entire purchase (for there is an emphasis in the Greek word in the original); His possession as also a thing of the future. So then here are the three points that I want to look at for a moment or two; first, a word about the imperfect present; second, about the present, imperfect as it is, still being a guarantee and pledge of the future; and, lastly, about the perfect future which is the outcome of the imperfect present.

I. A word about this imperfect present, which is put here as being on one side the earnest of the inheritance, and on the other side as being God’s partial acquisition of us as His possession. There can be nothing deeper, nothing greater, nothing more real in the manner of possession, than the possession which every one of us may have of an indwelling God for our life and our peace. It passes all human analogy; love gives us the ownership, most really and most sweetly, of the hearts that we love; but after all the yearning desires for union, and experience of oneness in sympathy, the awful wall of partition between spirits remains; and life may, and death must, separate; but he that hath God’s Divine Spirit with him, has God for the life of his life and the soul of his soul. And we possess Him when, by faith in Jesus Christ, the Spirit of God dwells in our hearts. But most real and most blessed as that union and possession is, my text tells us that it is incomplete. I need not dwell upon that in order to prove it; I only want to apply and urge the truth for a moment. We have an Infinite Spirit to dwell with us; how finite and little is our possession of it! The Spirit of God is set forth in Scripture under the symbol of “a rushing, mighty wind,” and you and I say that we are Christ’s, and that we have Him. How does it come, then, that our sails flap idly on the mast, and we lie becalmed, and making next to no progress? The Spirit of God is set forth in Scripture under the symbol of “flaming tongues of fire,” and you and 1 say that we have it; how is it, then, that this thick-ribbed ice is round our hearts, and our love is all so tepid? The Spirit of God is set forth in Scripture under the symbol of “rivers of water”; and you and I say that we possess it. How is it, then, that so much of our hearts and of our natures is given up to barrenness, and dryness, and deadness? Oh, brethren, with an Infinite Spirit for our Guest and Indweller, any of us that look at our own hearts must feel that my text is too surely true, and that the present possession of the best of us is but a partial and incomplete possession. Many Christian people forget that if our present condition be, as it certainly is, necessarily imperfect, it ought also to be, and it will be, if there be any vital force of Christian principle within us, constantly and indefinitely approximating to the ideal standard of perfection that gleams there ahead of us. Or, to put it into plainer English, if you have life you will grow. If there be any real possession of the inheritance, it will be like the rolling fences that they used to have in certain parts of the country, where a squatter settled himself down upon a bit of a royal forest, and had a hedge that could be moved outwards and shifted on by degrees; and from having begun with a little bit big enough for a cabbage garden, ended with a piece big enough for a farm. And that is what we are always to do, to be always acquiring, “adding field to field” in the great inheritance that is ours.

II. Now turn to the second thought here--that this imperfect present, imperfect though it be, is a prophecy and a pledge of a perfect future. The “earnest of our inheritance” till the full “redemption of the purchased possession.” The facts of Christian experience are such as that they inevitably point to the conclusion that there is a life beyond. All that is good and blessed about religion, our faith, the joy that comes from our faith, the sweetness of communion, the aspiration after the increase of fellowship with Him; all these, to the man that enjoys them, are the best proof that they are going to last forever, and that death can have no power over them. “Like thoughts, their very sweetness yieldeth proof that they are born for immortality.” To love, to know, to reach the hands out through the shows of time and sense, and to grasp an unseen reality that lies away beyond, is, to any man that has ever experienced the emotion and done the thing, one of the strongest of all demonstrations that nothing belonging to this dusty low region of the physical can touch that immortal aspiration that knits him to God; but that whatsoever may befall the husk and shell of him, his faith, his love, his obedience, his consecration, these at least are eternal, and may laugh at death and the grave. And I believe that even to the men that have not the experience, the fact of religious emotion, the fact of worship, ought to be one of the best demonstrations of a future life. But I pass that with these simple remarks, and touch another thing; the very incompleteness of our possession of God, and of God’s possession of us, points onwards to, and, as it seems to me, demands a future. The imperfection, as well as the present attainments of our Christian experience, proclaim a coming time. That we are no better than we are, being as good as we are, seems to make it inconceivable that this evidently half-done job is going to be broken off short at the side of the grave. Here is a certain force at work in a man’s nature, the power of God’s good Spirit, evidently capable of producing effects of entire transformation. Such being the case, who, looking at the effects, can doubt that sometime and somewhere there will be less disproportion between the two? The engine is evidently not working full power. The characters of Christians at the best are so inconsistent and contradictory that they are evidently only in the making. It is clear that we are looking at unfinished work, and surely the great Master Builder, who has laid such a foundation stone tried and precious, will not begin to build and not be able to finish. Every Christian life, at its best and noblest, shows, as it were, the ground plan of a great structure partly carried out--a bit of walling up here, vacancy there, girders spanning wide spaces, but gaping for a roof, a chaos and a confusion. It may look a thing of shreds and patches, and they that pass by the way begin to mock. But the very fact that it is incomplete, prophesies to wise men of the day when the headstone shall be brought with shouting, and the flag hoisted on the roof tree. Fools and children, says the proverb, should not see half done work--certainly they should not judge it. Wait a bit. There comes a time when tendencies shall be facts, and when influences shall have produced their appropriate effects; and when all that is partial and broken shall be consummate and entire in the Kingdom that is beyond the stars. Wait! and be sure that the good and the bad, so strangely blended in Christian experience, are alike charged with the prophecy of a glorious and perfect future.

III. Then, lastly, my text in the one clause asserts, and in the other implies, that the future is the perfecting of the present. The “earnest” points onwards to an inheritance the same in kind, but immensely greater in degree. The “redemption of the possession” is a somewhat singular expression; for we are accustomed to regard the great act of redemption as already past in the sacrifice of Christ upon the cross. But the expression is employed here, as in several other places, to express not so much the act of purchase, the paying of the price of our salvation, which is done once for all and long ago, as the historical working out of the results of that price paid in the entire deliverance of the whole nature of man from every form of captivity to anything that would prevent his full possession by God. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Grace but an earnest of glory

As old Master Durham says, “‘Tis but a taste!” You have tasted that the Lord is gracious, but you do not know how good and how gracious He is. We have not yet rested beneath the vines of Canaan; we have only enjoyed the first fruits of the Spirit, and they have set us hungering and thirsting for the fulness of the heavenly heritage. We groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption. We are like David; we have had a draught of water from the well of Bethlehem, that is within the gate, brought to us through the valour of Christ Jesus; but we have not yet drank the clear, cool stream, in all its perfection, at the fountainhead. We are but beginners in spiritual education; we have learned the first letters of the alphabet; we cannot read words yet, much less can we read sentences; we are but infants now; we have not come to the stature of perfect men in Christ Jesus. As one says, “He that has been in heaven but five minutes, knows more than all the general assembly on earth, though they were all learned divines.” We shall know more of Christ by one glimpse of Him in heaven, than we shall know by all our learning here. ‘Tis but a taste here, and if a taste be so ravishing, what must it be to sit at the table and eat bread in the kingdom of God? (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Heaven our inheritance

We have heard of a great man who once took a poor believer and said--“Do you look over there to those hills.” “Yes, sir.” “Well, all that is mine; that farm yonder, and that yonder, and beyond that river over there--it is all mine.” “Ah,” said the other--“look at yonder little cottage, that is where I live, and even that is not mine, for I have to hire it, and yet I am richer than you, for I can point up yonder and say, there lies my inheritance, in heaven’s unmeasured space, and let you look as far as ever you can you cannot see the limit of my heritage, nor find out where it ends nor where it begins.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Foretastes of heaven

The more you are acquainted with God while you live, the more willing you will be to die, to go to Him; for death, to a child of God, is nothing else but a resting with God, in whose bosom he hath often been by holy meditation, when he was alive. Dr. Preston, when he was dying, used these words: “Blessed be God, though I change my place I shall not change my company; for I have walked with God while living, and now I go to rest with God.” (Arvine.)

Heaven a costly purchase

There are sometimes rare and beautiful wares brought into the market, that are invoiced at almost fabulous rates. Ignorant people wonder why they are priced so high. The simple reason is that they cost so much to procure. That luxurious article labelled £200 was procured by the adventurous hunter, who at the hazard of his neck, brought down the wild mountain goat, out of whose glossy hair the fabric was wrought. Yonder pearl that flashes on the brow of the bride is precious, because it was rescued from the great deep at the risk of the pearl fisher’s life, as he was lifted into the boat half dead, with the blood gushing from his nostrils. Yonder ermine, flung so carelessly over the proud beauty’s shoulder, cost terrible battles with polar ice and hurricane. All choicest things are reckoned the dearest. So is it, too, in heaven’s inventories. The universe of God has never witnessed aught to be reckoned in comparison with the redemption of a guilty world. That mighty ransom no such contemptible things as silver and gold could procure. Only by one price could the Church of God be redeemed from hell, and that the precious blood of the Lamb--the Lamb without blemish or spot--the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. (T. L. Cuyler, D. D.)

The praise of His glory

That must be a possession indeed, the bestowal of which shall be not only to the glory of Jehovah, but “to the praise of His glory.” Observe the several things said here with regard to it. The nature of it--an inheritance. It is a choice possession--the gift of God, and to the praise of His glory. It is an inheritance by birthright. It is a purchased possession. Who can estimate the price? It is a possession already obtained: “In whom also we have obtained an inheritance” (verse 11). Obtained in Christ, the Holy Ghost Himself has sealed us unto it, He is also the earnest of it in our hearts, and He remains in US, our seal and earnest, “until the redemption of the purchased possession.” For it is not yet finally redeemed. Now let us endeavour, by degrees, to get some definite idea of this great subject. Our inheritance! As condemned lost sinners in ourselves, we have no inheritance of our own, save that of sin, and shame, and death, and hell. God gave Adam and Eve, in Him, a splendid inheritance. All things here below were under their dominion. But soon they lost their inheritance, their kingdom, their crown, their souls. And we lost all in them. Nevertheless, Adam was the image of Him that was to come, the Second Adam, the Lord from heaven, the appointed heir of all things. But the possession is not yet fully redeemed. Redemption in the Bible is spoken of in two connections. There is redemption by payment of a price, and that is already done. Every believer has been redeemed, not with silver or gold, “but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” But there is another redemption spoken of, even a redemption by power, and that is not yet. Oh, these poor frames of ours are sorry representatives of the power of God’s redemption. Nay, we who have the first fruits of the Spirit, and are redeemed with the precious blood of Christ, and sealed unto the day of redemption, even “we groan, being burdened,” carrying about with us a body of sin and death, liable to temptations, harassed by the world, the flesh, and the devil; and “we are waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of the body.” Consider--

1. Not only will God give us back the inheritance we have lost by sin, but He Himself shall become our inheritance.

2. Not only shall we be His inheritance, but also His purchased possession.

3. Meanwhile, and since we are still in the flesh, God has given us His Holy Spirit, our Comforter, to subdue, rescue, stablish, anoint, seal us, and be the earnest of our inheritance.

4. Our inheritance is not only kept for us, but we are kept by the power of God for our inheritance.

5. Finally, we have been adopted “according to the good pleasure of His will,” redeemed and forgiven “according to the riches of His grace,” and our purchased selves and our inheritance are and ever shall be “to the praise of His glory.” Amen. (M. Rainsford, B. A.)


Verse 15-16

Ephesians 1:15-16

Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and love unto all the saints.

Faith a chief characteristic of the Christian

I. It is the first condition of spiritual life.

1. Uniting the sinner with the Lord of life.

2. Restoring the spiritual outcast to filial relations with God the Father.

3. Interesting and exercising the renewed nature in things unseen and eternal.

II. It exhibits itself in the spirit and conduct of believers.

1. The life of the believer is in the greatest contrast to the life of unbelief.

2. It impels to the promotion of the well-being of others.

III. It ought therefore to be anxiously looked for and thankfully recognized by other Christians. But all Christians are not so deeply interested in the progress of Christ’s kingdom as Paul was! It requires an unworldly and generous spirit to be possessed by such an enthusiasm.

1. Awaking thanksgiving in him. As if it had been a personal advantage to himself. God is thanked as the Author of the spiritual life thus evinced.

2. Impelling to prayer. Because the fruits and spiritual outgrowth of faith were still to come. He who awakened faith in Himself alone can sustain and perfect it. (A. F. Muir, M. A.)

Christian faith and love

I. Faith is the first gift of God which He mentions in their praise, and truly in many respects it deserves the first place in our letters, in our hearts, and in our lives. What is faith? It is a holy resting upon the word and promise of God as true and faithful, so that the natural consequence is peace of conscience and spiritual joy; it is a taking of God at His word.

II. Now comes the next great gift for which the apostle praises them, love, brotherly love, love to all the saints. It has its fountain in the love of God as the Father of the whole redeemed family. His love to us produces corresponding love to Him, and in loving the common Father, we necessarily love one another. The bonds, indeed, which bind the saints together are very many and very strong. They are members of the same family, redeemed with the same precious blood, and filled with the same quickening Spirit. They have the same friends and the same enemies, the same hopes and fears, the same promises of good things to come, and the same living Head in heaven. How full, and deep, and strong should be their love to one another! The words of our text are instructive--“Love to all the saints!” (W. Graham, D. D.)

Recognition of good points in others

Paul’s thankfulness for what he heard about the faith and religious life of the Ephesian Christians is one of the many proofs that his nature was singularly ardent, generous, and sanguine. He knew that there were some, perhaps many, of them who were emerging only very slowly from the vices of their old heathen days, else he would not have thought it necessary to write what he has written in the later pages of this Epistle about the most elementary moral duties. But it was his habit to think of all that was fairest in the lives of Christian people. There were grave faults, there were gross sins, in the Church at Ephesus; but he had heard enough of the Church to be sure that it had not forgotten what he had taught it eight or nine years before. The faith of the Church in Christ was still steadfast, and the reality of that faith was still shown in their spirit and conduct to all saints. They themselves were loyal to Christ, and they regarded all Christians as comrades and brethren; and therefore he ceased not to “give thanks” for them. That is an admirable temper. We are too much disposed to impeach the sincerity and worth of a man’s faith if we see in him a single serious fault. That was not Paul’s way. He had a keen eye for goodness; whatever might be his sorrow on account of the sins of Christian men, and however sternly he rebuked them for their sins, he rejoiced ardently in every manifestation, however faint, of a genuine desire to do the will of God. He watched the beginnings of a nobler life in his converts, as we watch the conflict between the dawn and the heavy darkness of the night. In some of them the rising glory was almost concealed by the dense clouds of heathen ignorance, superstition, and vice; but he could see gleams of light trembling through the gloom. Here and there between the broken clouds there was the clear blue of a diviner heaven. He rejoiced and gave thanks that the light of God had risen upon the darkness; not in a moment, but gradually and certainly, the dim, cloudy, troubled dawn would be followed by a bright and glorious day. (R. W. Dale, LL. D.)

Observance of others’ religious progress

1.Ministers must labour to know how grace goes forward in those with whom they have to deal. It behoves shepherds to know their flock.

2. The Ephesians’ faith is occupied about the Lord Jesus Christ.

3. Faith and love are never disjoined, but go hand in hand with each other. Faith without love is but a dead carcase; love without; faith is but a blind devotion. Neither is pleasing to God without the other. Let us try the truth of our faith by the presence or absence of love. We may more easily carry coals in our bosom without burning, than by faith apprehend truly this love of God, without finding our hearts burn in answering love to Him.

4. The love of true believers is set on the saints, yea, on all the saints. Every creature likes to be with those who are united with it in communication of the same nature: so sanctified Christians cannot but love and like to be most with those who have received the like divine nature in which they are themselves partakers. (Paul Bayne.)

Faith and love--immense affections

No one who knows what faith and love are, according to the New Testament, will ever doubt that they are the most human of all our capacities. They are distinct, yet essentially one. They are significant signs of our vast future. Give yourself to history, to geology, astronomy, physiology, chemistry, and you will correspondingly inform and expand your mind. But by faith, your spirit is at one with the wisdom and goodness, the power and glory, the infinity and eternity of God. Faith involves, therefore, the utmost enlargement of soul, and yet begets nothing like self-exaltation. We say nothing of nominal believers; but minds which are in actual sympathy with the Son of God, are in the condition to become the master minds of the universe. Nor can anyone doubt this, who understands the scope of God’s purpose in Christ Jesus. It is not possible that “the power of God, and the wisdom of God,” should establish their empire in certain men, without constituting them “kings and priests unto God.” The elements of essential precedency and power are rooted and grounded in them. By selfish thoughts of the gospel, as of a plan by which we are to be saved from misery and hell, we spoil it of its Divine glory. The gospel of God comprehends higher and broader reaches of thought, than any subject ever opened to the minds of angels or men. The noble-mindedness of faith is always associated with a corresponding noble-heartedness. Faith and love are inseparable bosom companions. I constantly thank God, writes Paul, for your faith and love. “Your faith” is a Divine expansiveness given to your understanding, and “your love unto all the saints” is a like vastness given to your affections. They are the double suns of your soul, sun within sun. Whole galaxies of wisdom are comprehended in faith, as in a mental firmament. And as to the new spirit of love, which is faith’s associative soul, “He that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him.” “Wherefore, I cease not to give thanks for you,” that the goodness and the greatness which are everlasting are made sure to you. Your faith and love are of unknown value. They constitute your initiation into an endless progress. Infinite truth is the scope of your mind; and infinite love, the scope of your heart. (John Pulsford.)

Faith in Christ

I remember an old experimental Christian speaking about the great pillars of our faith; he was a sailor; we were then on board ship and there were sundry huge posts on the shore, to which the ships were usually moored by throwing a cable over them. After I had told him a great many promises, he said, “I know they are good strong promises, but I cannot get near enough to shore to throw my cable round them; that is the difficulty.” Now it often happens that God’s past mercies and loving kindnesses would be good sure posts to hold on to, but we have not got faith enough to throw our cable round them, and so we go drifting, down the stream of unbelief because we cannot stay ourselves by our former mercies. I will, however, give you something that I think you can throw your cable over. If God has never been kind to you, one thing you surely know, and that is, He has been kind to others. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Faith and love illustrated

Some naturalists desired to obtain the wild flowers which grew on the side of a dangerous gorge in the Scottish Highlands. They offered a boy a liberal sum to descend by a rope, and get them. He looked at the money, thought of the danger, and replied, “I will go if my father will hold the rope.” With unshrinking nerves he suffered his father to put the rope round him, lower him over the precipice, and to suspend him there, while he filled his basket with the coveted flowers.

Reflex benefit of charity

Where charity is, there doth God reside. Possess charity, and you will see Him in your own heart, seated as on His throne. (Augustine.)

Self-denying charity

John Howard, the philanthropist, having settled his accounts at the close of a particular year, found a balance in his favour, and proposed to his wife to make use of it in a journey to London. “What a comfortable cottage for a poor family it would build!” was her answer. This hint met with cordial approbation; and the money was laid out upon that purpose accordingly.

Brotherly love

As the spokes of a carriage wheel approach their centre, they approach each other; so also, when men are brought to Jesus Christ, the centre of life and hope, they are drawn towards each other in brotherly love and relationship, and stand side by side, supporting each other, as they journey on together to their heavenly home. (J. F. Serjeant.)

Love of our neighbour

Cultivate ever a spirit of love to all. Love is the diamond amongst the jewels of the believer’s breastplate. The other graces shine like the precious stones of nature, with their own peculiar lustre and varied hues; but the diamond is white; now in white all the colours are united (as a prism will show), so love is centred every other grace and virtue; for we are told that “Love is the fulfilling of the law.” (Rowland Hill.)

Faith in Christ

Faith looked at in reference to God is a spirit of quietude and repose. Nothing so full of conscious helplessness and simple trust. No little bird beneath its parent’s wing, no child upon its mother’s lap, so gentle and confiding. A lion in conflict with the powers of hell, faith lies down like a lamb at the feet of the Lord of heaven. It returns and rests “in quietness and in confidence.” Indeed, in this way it obtains salvation and strength. The calm resting upon God makes it victorious over all beside. In truth, it is He who fights for the believer, with the believer, in the believer. Faith does nothing alone, nothing of itself, but everything under God, by God, through God. It is only in a qualified sense that faith makes war and gets victory. “The excellency of power is of God, and not of us.” Its humble dependence, its meek, child-like spirit, after all constitute its proper self. These are the essence and life of faith. (J. Stoughton.)

Love the fruit of faith

When a rosebud is formed, if the soil is soft and the sky is genial, it is not long before it bursts; for the life within is so abundant that it can no longer contain it all, but in blossomed brightness and swimming fragrance it must needs let forth its joy, and gladden all the air. And if, when thus ripe, it refused to expand, it would quickly rot at heart, and die. And Christian love is just piety with its petals fully spread, developing itself, and making it a happier world. The religion which fancies that it loves God, when it never evinces love to its brother, is not piety, but a poor mildewed theology, a dogma with a worm in the heart. (Dr. J. Hamilton.)

Thanksgiving and prayer for others

1. The graces of God in others must move Christians, especially ministers, to thankfulness. If a schoolmaster brings a rude untoward boy to behaviour and forwardness in learning, we much commend him, that he has wrought so far on so ill-disposed a subject; how much more is He to be magnified who works such alterations in sinners, dead in their sins and trespasses?

2. Christians are to help each other with prayer, especially ministers their converted people.

3. We must perseveringly follow God in those things we pray for. Some things God gives us before we ask for them; others, immediately upon our prayer; for others, again, He will have us follow Him with continuance before bestowing them. Thus He sees fit to exercise our sanctity, faith, and patience; to test whether our requests proceed from the heart; and to prepare us to receive the things we ask in greater measure, for the wider the soul is enlarged in desire, the more abundantly God means to fill it in His time. (Paul Bayne.)

Intercessory prayer

Prayer, generally speaking, is the life of a Christian Church, and when it takes the forms of thanksgiving and intercession it is peculiarly blessed and attractive. (W. Graham, D. D.)

Prayer and thanks

Prayer and thanks are like the double motion of the lungs: the air that is sucked in by prayer, is breathed forth again by thanks. (Goodwin.)

Christian intercession

The great secret of the success of Harlan Page was, that he always aimed at the conversion of someone; wrestling in prayer with God, and in affectionate entreaty with the sinner, till he saw his wishes realized. By following this plan, though he was in a humble sphere of life, in active work, and often in deep poverty, he lived to see more than a hundred brought to God, as the fruit of his zeal and intercessions. (Howes.)

The meaning of intercession

The question, “What is meant by intercession?” being asked in a Sunday school, one of the children made a very apt reply, in the words, “Speaking a word to God for us, sir.”

Unceasing prayer

When a pump is frequently used, the water pours out at the first stroke, because it is high; but, if the pump has not been used for a long time, the water gets low, and when you want it you must pump a long while; and the water comes only after great efforts. It is so with prayer. If we are instant in prayer, every little circumstance awakens the disposition to pray, and desire and words are always ready: but, if we neglect prayer, it is difficult for us to pray; for the water in the well gets low. (Felix Neff.)

Intercessory prayer

A young lady heard voice as of one engaged in conversation, and distinguished the words, “O Lord, have mercy upon the dear youth of this place!” She was struck with the thought, “Is this the way Christians go about the town, and mingle with the world? Do they pray thus for our souls? I have hardly ever prayed for my own.” From that day, she began to pray, and became the first-fruits of a glorious revival.

A passion for prayer

When Dr. Bacchus (the President of Hamilton College), was upon his death bed, the doctor called to see him, and, after examining the symptoms, left the room without speaking, but, as he opened the door to go out, was observed to whisper something to the servant. “What did the physician say to you?” asked Dr. Bacchus. “He said, sir, that you cannot live to exceed half an hour.” “Is it so?” said the good man. “Then take me out of my bed, and place me upon my knees; let me spend that time in calling upon God for the salvation of the world.” His request was complied with; and his last moments were spent in breathing forth his prayers for the salvation of his fellow sinners. He died upon his knees. So also did Drs. Krapt and Livingstone.


Verses 15-20

Verse 17

Ephesians 1:17; Ephesians 1:19

That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the rather of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him.

What young believers require to receive

I. Increase of spiritual perception. Not so much new objects to contemplate, as clearer and deeper knowledge of objects already discerned. This is attained--

1. Through exercise of faith already possessed. It grows with the using.

2. Through the influence of the Holy Spirit. It assimilates the perceiving power to its own nature, and imparts new knowledge of Divine things. The powers of the spirit in general are heightened and extended--“a spirit of wisdom.” Truth not discernible by ordinary human faculties is made known--“revelation.”

II. Closer acquaintance with their Lord. “In the knowledge of Him.” He is the life book we are to study.

III. Access of Divine knowledge.

IV. Growth in experience. Amid the vague, new elements that crowd into their knowledge, certain great, central objects are to be realized most intensely.

1. The hope of their calling. Glory, complete salvation, eternal life, etc., are various aspects of this hope, which it is the great object of Christians to attain.

2. The riches of the glory of the Divine inheritance. The Kingdom of God grows in vastness, glory, and privilege, the more it is contemplated and sought.

3. The Divine resurrection power within themselves. The same power which raised Christ from the dead, and set Him at the right hand of God, works in the believer, evokes spiritual life, and sustains and develops it, from grace to grace, and glory to glory. As they compare their spiritual experience with His in resurrection and ascension, they will have grander realizations of the nature of the resurrection power that is working in themselves, and will trust it more intelligently and absolutely. There is no limit to this experience. (A. F. Muir, M. A.)

The presence of the Holy Ghost in the soul

I. The two mysteries which exist in the manhood of Christ, and in His mystic body, exist also in the ransomed soul; the presence of the Spirit, and union with the Son of God. You may conceive of the indwelling of the Spirit in Christ’s human nature. It was spotless: original sin found no place there. In the foundations of Christ’s created nature, there was no intermingling of the taint of the Fall. In His birth no sin, in His temptations no inward response. His soul was the mirror of unsullied holiness, and therefore a fit dwelling place for the Holy Spirit. But we are conceived in sin, born in sin, may have lived in sin, bear still the remains of a corrupt nature, “the flesh lusteth against the Spirit.” Who would dare then to speak of the indwelling of Almighty God the Comforter in our souls, had He not unmistakably affirmed it? The New Testament points to it as the characteristic glory of Christian life. The Spirit, who first dwelt in Jesus in His fulness, extends His presence to all in union with that manhood. As the little cloud about the size of a man’s hand, when it rose up into the heavens, spread itself out over the whole sky, and there was an abundance of rain, so the Ascended Lord gathers His Saints around Him, and pours down upon the parched earth streams of Divine Life. Each soul in grace is a partaker of the Divine Nature. The pure nature of Christ is the instrument of the Spirit in the soul. There is in every baptized soul, not only the indwelling of the Comforter, but a jet of the Life of Jesus, through which the transformation of our nature is being accomplished, and His character gradually impressed.

II. Again, the expansion of the Church into the world finds its counterpart in the progressive development of the Kingdom of God within the soul. The same vital principles in both, if permitted to put themselves forth, will overcome all opposing forces. Of the Kingdom of God, it is said, the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. This may be true, too, of the reign of Christ in the soul. The Kingdom of God within has its persecutions to pass through. At its secret beginning, the whole of nature is in revolt; but if we are steadfast, grace will finally gain the ascendency, and sit in calm possession of the throne. The command of the Church, to disciple all nations, is only by degrees accomplished; so the leaven of grace in the soul will only gradually penetrate into our whole being, and in the end produce “the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” The treasure of Divine truth, which the Spirit unfolds in the understanding, we will now consider. The understanding, through the Fall, is in a state of darkness as to supernatural things. Reason and conscience are two lights which “rule the night.” They are the only guides by which we find our path. The understanding being thus overclouded, much of the sin that is committed may be traced up to some error in this faculty. The Holy Spirit, as the Illuminator, dispels the darkness, and amplifies the view, correcting and ennobling the natural faculty with the grace of faith, and the gifts of wisdom, understanding, knowledge, and counsel. Faith is the dawn upon the soul of a supernatural world. It is the first fissure through the cloud. It may be only like the breaking of the day, an imperfect view, like the glimpse of the blind man, the sight of “men as trees, walking”; yet it is a revelation of the Invisible. The Invisible becomes a reality. Hence the gift of faith is the one the Spirit employs against the adversary. It is with the shield of faith we are to “quench all the fiery darts of the wicked,” whom we must “resist steadfast in the faith.” Why is faith the chosen engine against the Evil One, the shield of our spiritual armour? It is because through it a new set of motives is brought to bear upon our conduct. For instance: a temptation awaits us; the flesh is weak, and some powerful influence is required to prevent a fall. Faith supplies it. In the early stage of the spiritual life, the thought comes, “There is heaven; if I commit this sin, I may lose it”; or fear is excited; “Here is hell; if I commit sin, I may fall into it.” If there is a deeper life the thought of the Cross of Jesus and His constraining love will be felt; “If I commit this sin, I shall be crucifying Him afresh.” The light of faith furnishing motives which act either upon our fears or hopes, or rekindle our love, fulfils the office of a shield in the day of battle. Besides this grace, the Holy Spirit provides certain gifts which complete His work in the understanding, and are auxiliary to Divine faith. When the apostle used the words of the text, he was praying not simply for general enlightenment, but that his converts might possess and develop certain specific forms of spiritual knowledge. The gift of wisdom is the chief of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. St. Paul prays that the Ephesians may be endued with “the spirit of wisdom”; and Isaiah places it first, when he enumerates the gifts as they dwelt in our Lord. It is the highest quality which the Spirit bestows. The apostle links with the spirit of “wisdom” that of “revelation.” This may correspond with the gift of understanding, for it is a spiritual insight into the mysteries of the kingdom of grace. The gift of knowledge is another form of light, having for its object not God and His perfections, nor the mysteries of grace, but God as He is seen in created things. It discloses His designs in them, what they are in themselves, what purposes they are intended to fulfil, what portions of His being they reflect, how they may be enlisted in His service, and brought through our instrumentality to minister to His glory, how they may be rightfully used or enjoyed. This gift, too, is important as it relates to our inner life. Self-knowledge is obtained through it. The gift of counsel completes our intellectual equipment. Its name describes its nature. It guides the soul in the choice of the best means to be used for arriving at the desired end. It seeks advice from all past occurrences; teaching us how to use our falls, the various remedies to which we have been directed to resort, those which have best suited our disposition, what have been the occasions of sin, what the results,--in short, the gift of counsel treasures up all the complex experiences of the spiritual life, and puts them to account. There are two thoughts which suggest appropriate lessons on this part of our subject. If it be true, that the Holy Ghost dwells within us; that each one is a temple of His presence, and a member of Christ; that our understanding is now replete with such wonderful powers, supplied with Divine lights for the removal of the darkness which sin has occasioned; that the same gifts which the mind of Christ possesses, are in their measure communicated to all His brethren: then, surely, sin committed in such a state, will have a special heinousness about it. Hence there is a more minute inspection of sin in the new dispensation. The inward presence brings up to light inward sin. What a thought to influence our conduct, “I am the temple of God!” The rebuke of the apostle is not now unnecessary, or out of date--“know ye not that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” Another practical conclusion is to be drawn from what has been said. Life is manifested by action. A Divine life will be manifested by actions which exceed the power of nature. If I possess this life, I am thereby rendered capable of doing works which shall be pleasing to God. Grace, as a new principle of action, enables me to do works, which, by nature, I could not do. A supernatural life bestows on my actions a new value, so that they partake of the Eternity of God. The presence of the Holy Spirit imparts to them, when they are wrought in grace, and with a pure intention for God’s glory, an imperishable character. “They are wrought in God.” (W. H. Hutchings, M. A.)

Growth in spiritual knowledge

I. The means whereby this knowledge is attained. “The spirit of wisdom and revelation.” Here are two things--the spirit of wisdom and the spirit of revelation. This “spirit of revelation” I understand to mean “inspiration.” The prayer for its bestowment upon the Ephesian Church was in effect a prayer for the multiplication of its prophets, the then accredited guides and instructors of the Church, in the absence of the apostle, in all that related to spiritual matters. The spirit of revelation, however, is not a need of the Church now since it has the “revelation of the spirit,” for where the revelation of the spirit is, there can be no need for the “spirit of revelation.” But the spirit of wisdom is still a need of the Church, and will ever form one of its first necessities.

1. To secure an attitude of firm, unflinching faith in this revelation. Just as the force by which the earth is hurled along in its ceaseless course through space has never succeeded in overcoming the force by which it is kept in its orbit, so the spirit of wisdom in the Church will ever prevent the centrifugal force of free thought and free criticism from overcoming the centripetal force of faith in the Divine revelation, humanity’s moral sun, the source of its spiritual life and glory.

2. It is not alone in relation to the attitude we are to assume towards God’s Word, in view of the modern spirit of unsparing, not to say reckless, criticism, that the spirit of wisdom is needed. It is needed also as the power by which alone we shall be able to unlock the spiritual secrets of that Word, to explore its hidden treasures, to take in fully and sympathetically its deepest teachings.

II. We come now to consider the second division of the subject of the text, namely, the object to whom this spiritual enlightenment relates--“God.” It is “the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him,” “Him” as described in the preceding part of the verse. The full purport of this expression in reference to the Ephesians will be better understood if we remember that they had until very recently been heathens. It is thus reasonable to suppose that their conceptions of God were very defective. They had not as yet succeeded in entirely divesting their minds of the low, degrading notions of God with which their heathen training had impressed them. They had still much to learn concerning His nature and character. They had constant need of instruction whereby their notions of Him might be purified and elevated. Hence the prayer that they might have the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him. Further, the apostle indicates the particular aspect of the Divine character upon which they were to seek further enlightenment--“the God of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Father of glory.” It is a description of God that covers the whole ground of His redemptive relation to men. And it is God in this inexpressibly glorious aspect of His character that the text represents as the great object of Christian knowledge. It is that the Ephesian believers might have a more abundant entrance into the transcendent glories and the ineffable joy of this truth, that the apostle prays that they might have the spirit of wisdom and revelation.

III. We now come to the consideration of the third truth indicated by the text, namely, the further experiences of spiritual things to which this knowledge of God conduces. The apostle specifies in the text and the next verse three things, to the right and full apprehension of which we come “through the knowledge of Him.” These are--“the hope of His calling,” “the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,” and “the exceeding greatness of His power to usward” and Christward. The first includes God’s purpose in relation to men--to call them into glory. The second refers to the glory that shall accrue to Himself through men thus glorified. The third refers to the transcendent character of the means adopted to secure these glorious ends. Here are three matters of knowledge arrived at by the enlightenment of the understanding through the knowledge of Him. They are matters of transcendent glory, and sweep the whole horizon of our salvation. Yes, we are to come into the full meaning of these superlative truths through our knowledge of God, as the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory. The Divine Being, thus apprehended, is the higher plane from which alone the full glory of our salvation can be viewed and comprehended. It forms our coign of vantage for the attainment of an adequate conception of at least three things respecting this salvation.

1. The grandeur of its aim both as regards the individual and the race.

2. It is as viewed from this higher plane of spiritual knowledge that the infinite reasonableness of this munificent gift of grace and love will reveal itself to the mind.

3. Again, we notice that the knowledge of God is our vantage ground for understanding the infallible certainty of the accomplishment of these great ends. From this standpoint we enter into the full apprehension of the exceeding greatness of His power. Whatever fear or doubt may perplex the mind regarding the realization of the redemptive scheme, on the score of the grandeur of its aim and comprehensiveness of its scope, and the vastness of the difficulties in its way, will vanish in the light of this apprehension of the exceeding greatness of His power. This power covers every difficulty, is, in fact, illimitable and absolute in relation to the Divine purposes. He whose eyes have been enlightened knows this, and in this knowledge rests in unshaken tranquility. (A. J. Parry.)

The spirit of wisdom

1. We must so consider God, when we come to Him in prayer, as to see Him in what we desire. St. Paul when about to pray for these Ephesians who had believed on Christ, and to seek the glorious gifts of the Spirit which might help them to know the glory reserved for them, sets God before him as the God of that Christ whom they had now received by faith into their hearts, and the Father of all glory: both of which considerations strengthened his faith; for he could not think that God, the God of Christ, would be wanting to those who were Christ’s, or that the Father of all glory would deny those glorious gifts which he was about to ask Him to increase. So here is a lesson for all. Wouldst thou have remission of sin? Consider of God as a God with whom there is plenty of redemption or forgiveness. Wouldst thou have ease in any misery and grief? Consider of Him as a Father of all mercy and consolation, when thou comest to Him; this strengthens faith, and inflames affection. We seek things more securely, when we know them to be where we are looking for them; and we follow them more affectionately, when (so to speak) we see them before us.

2. Even true believers have great want of heavenly wisdom. They have it in a certain measure; but fall far short of what may be attained.

3. We need light as well as wisdom. To have inward faculty of seeing is one thing: to have outward light, by means of which to see, is another. Light must come to light before we can see; the light in the eye must meet with the outward light of the sun, or a candle, or some other lightsome body, or nothing is perceived: so the light of wisdom which is in the soul must have shining to it this light of revelation, which makes manifest things spiritual; or else, be our sight never so quick, we shall be environed with darkness. The Spirit, therefore, is fitly compared with fire, which has not only heat resolving numbness and making stiff joints active, but also has light grateful to the eye of the body: so the Spirit has both love which warms our frozen hearts and affections, and also this light of revelation which delights the eye of the understanding and manifests heavenly things to its view.

4. It is God, by the Spirit of Christ, who works in us all true wisdom. It is not pregnancy of natural wit that can make us wise unto salvation, nor ripeness of years: but “the inspiration of the Almighty giveth understanding.” Yet we do attain ripeness of wisdom, under God, by the due use of means.

Worldly wisdom worthless

What does the philosophy of the Agnostic for the despairs of the sinking human soul? Hear the sad summing up of one of the votaries of the cold wisdom of the world, which “knows not God.” It is that of Professor Clifford, dying early, with this sad word on his lips, “My researches have revealed to me a soulless universe, looked down upon by a godless heaven.” (Author of The Harvest of a Quiet Eye.”)

We are nothing without God’s wisdom in us

“See how much they think of me!” said a lantern to some dips that were hanging, on a nail close by. “The master says he doesn’t know what he should do without me these dark nights.” “No doubt,” said the candle; “but he’d sing a different song if it weren’t for one of us inside of you. Did it never occur to you, friend, that you wouldn’t be of the least use to anybody if our light didn’t shine through you?” (Mrs. Prosser.)

The eyes of your understanding being enlightened.

Spiritual eye salve; or, the benefit of illumination

The special grace here prayed for is illumination.

I. The eye is the most excellent organ of sense. In a clear eye, the looker sees his own image; so God, in a sanctified understanding, sees a limited resemblance of His infinite Self. God has set two lids to defend the corporal eye from annoyance; and, in like manner, He has given faith and hope, to shelter the understanding.

1. The situation of this spiritual eye is in the soul. God, framing man’s soul, planted in it two faculties: the superior, that is the understanding, which perceiveth and judgeth; the inferior, that is the will, which being informed of the other, accordingly follows or flies, chooseth or refuseth. The Scripture, favouring the simplest capacity, compares these two powers of the soul to two known parts of the body: the understanding to the eye, the affections to the foot--the eye directing, the foot walking. Every man is naturally born blind and lame: as Zedekiah, captivated to the king of Babylon; first they “put out his eyes” (2 Kings 25:7), and then they lamed his feet with fetters of brass. So is every man by nature, and therefore easily made a slave to the king of infernal Babylon, if the mercy of Christ should not redeem him. This consideration reacheth forth to us two uses; the one of instruction, the other of reprehension:--

2. I come from the situation to the qualification of this spiritual eye: “enlightened.” For this blessing the apostle prays to the “Father of lights, from whom comes every good and perfect gift” (James 1:17): from Him, and from Him only, comes this grace of illumination. I cannot leave this excellent organ, the eye, till I have showed you two things:

Spiritual blindness shall appear the more perilous, if we compare it with natural. The body’s eye may be better spared than the soul’s; as to want the eyes of angels is far worse than to want the eyes of beasts. The want of corporal sight is often good, not evil: evil in the sense, and good in the consequence. He may the better intend heavenly things, that sees no earthly to draw him away. Many a man’s eye hath done him hurt (Genesis 6:4). Besides, the bodily blind feels and acknowledgeth his want of sight; but the spiritually blind thinks that none have clearer eyes than himself. He that wants corporal eyes blesseth them that see; this man derides and despiseth them (John 9:41). The blind in body is commonly led either by his servant, or his wife, or his dog: there may be yet some respect in these guides. But the blind in soul is led by the world, which should be his servant, is his traitor. Now the means to clear this eye is to get it a knowledge of God, of ourselves. That the eye may be cured, this knowledge must be procured. Now God must be known by His works, His word, and His Spirit.

II. We have now done with the organ of seeing, the understanding, or soul’s eye: let us come to the object to be seen, “the hope of His calling, and the riches of the glory of God’s inheritance in the saints.” The object is clear and transparent to a sanctified eye. The philosophers propound six necessary occurrences to our perfect seeing; and you shall see them all here met:--

1. Firmness or good disposition of the organ that seeth. A rolling eye beholds nothing perfectly. A Dinah’s eye is the prologue to a ravished soul.

2. The spectacle must be objected to the sight: the eye cannot pierce into penetralia terrae, or sublimia caeli; nor can the understanding see into these supernatural joys, unless the Lord object them to it. Hence it is that many neglectfully pass by (sine lumine lumen) the light, for want of eyes to regard it.

3. That there be a proportional distance betwixt the organ and the object: neither too near, nor too far off. A bright thing held too near the sight confounds it: be it never so bright, if too far off, it cannot discern it. God hath sweetly ordered and compounded this difference. Those everlasting joys are not close by our eyes, lest the glory should swallow us up; for mortal eyes cannot behold immortal things, nor our corruptible sight see steadfastly that eternal splendour.

4. It is required that the objected matter be substantial; not altogether diaphanous and transparent, but massy, and of a solid being. But this object here proposed is no empty chimera, or imaginary, translucent, airy shadow, but substantial: “the hope of God’s calling, and a glorious inheritance”; which though nature’s dull eye cannot reach, faith’s eye sees perfectly.

5. Clearness of space betwixt the organ and the object; for the interposition of some thick and gross body prevents the faculty of the eye. The quickest eye cannot see through hills; and a crass cloud is able to hide the sun from us at noonday.

6. Lastly, the object must be stable and firm, for if it move too swiftly, it dazzleth the eye, and cannot be truly (according to the perfect form of it) beholden. (T. Manton, D. D.)

The eyes of the understanding

Already, as believers in Christ, we are entitled in Him to all the spiritual blessing and Divine fulness laid up in Him; but for a fuller revelation of Him and of them the apostle prays. If we may use an illustration, it is as if a man were taken during the night to some lofty eminence shrouded in darkness and mystery. Suppose him surrounded on every side by a landscape of surpassing beauty and glory as yet unseen. But presently the morning dawns, the sun arises, the shadows flee away, the mists disperse in all directions, rolling up the mountain side in curling wreaths, and disclosing to the man’s delighted vision the glories of the inheritance that unfolds itself. Such is the case before the apostle’s mind. (M. Rainsford. B. A.)

The eye open to spiritual things

To grow up in the acknowledging of Christ is the way to attain fuller measure of the Spirit in every kind. Everything which respects life or godliness is said to begiven us through the knowledge or acknowledging of Christ. When we first come to know Him as the truth is in Him, we partake according to our measure in His Spirit; when we grow to behold Him as in a mirror or glass, more clearly, we are turned into the same glorious image by the Spirit of the Lord more and more; when we shall see Him and know Him evidently and fully, we shall be as He is. The more we know Him, the more fully He dwells in us, the more we enjoy the influence of His Spirit; even as this bodily sun, the nearer it approaches to us, the more we have the light and heat of it.

1. They whose spiritual sight is restored, have need still to depend upon God, that their eyes may be more and more enlightened by Him. As it is with bodily sicknesses, when we recover from them, health comes not all at once, but by ounces (as we say): so in spiritual. When God raises us up from our death, we neither are fully sanctified, nor yet fully enlightened; it is with us as with the blind man (Mark 8:24); we see, but confusedly and indistinctly. Now this enlightening comprehends these four things, which we have still need to ask God for.

2. Even true believers know not at first, in any measure, those hopes which are kept in heaven for them.

3. There is no grounded hope, but of such things as God has called us to obtain.

4. The inheritance kept for us is abundantly glorious. We are passing through this vale of misery to an excellent eternal weight of glory. Let this draw up our hearts. Riches and glory, what do they not with mortal men? But, alas, these worldly riches and glorious dignities are but pictures, not having the substance of what they show for. Men will sue upon their knees to recover small inheritances on earth. While time lasts, seek this inheritance. Let us think what a heart break it is to a man when he finds that by some default he has forfeited some earthly matters which he might have held had he been wary; but what a grief and confusion will this cause, when men shall see that through carelessness they have lost an everlasting inheritance of glory which they might have attained. There is but one life between us and possession; why should we be so negligent as we are?

5. It is to the saints that this inheritance belongs--those who are not only cleansed from the guilt of dead works, but by the Spirit of Christ renewed to true holiness.

The seat of the spiritual eye

I see there is a rendering of the text which runs thus, “The eyes of your heart being enlightened,” and it strikes me that this version has about it the appearance of being the correct one, because Divine things are usually better seen by the heart than by the understanding. There are a thousand things which God has revealed which we shall never understand, and yet we can know them by a loving, trustful experience. Our Saviour says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” The purifying of the heart is the enlightening of the spiritual eye. Strange as it may seem, the true eye of the renewed man is seated rather in the heart than in the head: holy affections enable us to see, and as far as possible to understand Divine things. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Universal need of enlightenment

This prayer was offered for Christians. He who sees most needs to have his eyes enlightened to see more, for how little as yet of the glory of God have any of us beheld! Even that favoured pilgrim who has been led by the shepherds to the top of Mount Clear, to stand there with telescopic glass and gaze into the glories of Immanuel’s land, has yet only commenced to perceive the things which God has prepared for them that love Him. I pray God that if we do already see, we may see more, until our eye shall be so strengthened that the light of the New Jerusalem shall not be too strong for us, but amid the splendour of God which outshines the sun we shall find ourselves at home. But if believers need to have their eyes enlightened, how much more must those who are unconverted. They are altogether blinded, and consequently their need of enlightenment is far greater. They were born blind, and the god of this world takes care yet further to darken their minds. Around them there broods a sevenfold midnight, the gloom of spiritual death. “They meet with darkness in the daytime, and grope in the noonday as in the night.” O blind eye, may Jesus touch thee! (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The eyes of understanding

Myra used to be entertained by her grandfather, who likened her to a fresh bud, that would soon burst into a flower, and himself to a faded leaf, which was almost ready to fall from the tree. One day, after Myra had taken a pleasant walk with her grandfather, she sat down with her mother, and then they talked together in the following manner: “I wish I had grandfather’s eyes, mother! What can you possibly want with the eyes of your grandfather, Myra?” “Oh, if I had his eyes I should see all that he sees when we are walking together; but now I cannot see half as much as he does.”--“How is that, when you are young and he is old. He often says that his sight is not what it used to be; and though the Bible is in large print, he is obliged to use spectacles.” “Yes, mother, but for all that he can see more than I can.” “Tell me what you mean, my child, for I do not understand you.” “Why, when we walk out in the fields and lanes, let us look at what we will, he says he sees the goodness of God in everything.” “Ah, Myra! it’s not grandfather’s eyes, but grandfather’s faith that you want. Pray to God to open the eyes of your understanding, to give you a heart to love and trust Him, and you will then see Him, not only in all the works of His hand, but in all the events of life.”

Spiritual enlightenment

“I remember once being present,” says Captain Basil Hall, “at a meeting of the Geological Society, when a bottle was produced which was said to contain certain zoophytes (delicate water animals, having the form of plants). It was handed round in the first instance among the initiated on the foremost benches, who commented freely with one another on the forms of the animals in the fluid: but when it came to our hands, we could discover nothing in the bottle but the most limpid fluid, without any trace, so far as our eyes could make out, of animals dead or alive, the whole appearing absolutely transparent. The surprise of the ignorant at seeing nothing was only equal to that of the learned, who saw so much to admire. Nor was it till we were specifically instructed what it was we were to look for, and the shape, size, and general aspect of the zoophytes pointed out, that our understandings began to cooperate with our eyesight in peopling the fluid, which, up to that moment, had seemed perfectly uninhabited. The wonder then was, how we could possibly have omitted seeing objects now so palpable.” How many are the things which appear to the illuminated Christian to be palpably revealed, which the unconverted cannot discover to have any place at all in the Scriptures of Truth; and how very much surprised does he feel, that he could ever have at any former time overlooked them! (F. F. Trench.)

What is the hope of His calling.--

The hope of His calling

Dwell for a moment on--

1. The ground of this hope. His calling! May He not do as He will with His own?

2. The grace of this hope. “The God of all grace has called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus” (1 Peter 5:10). When the Lord Jesus Christ “called blind Bartimeus” (Matthew 20:32), He also “commanded him to be called” (Mark 10:29); and He further commanded him to be brought unto Him (Luke 18:40). And thus it was with our apostle himself. “It pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by His grace, to reveal His Son in me” (Galatians 1:15).

3. The objects of this hope. “Whom He did foreknow, them 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).

4. The subject of this hope. “Christ in you, the hope of glory: whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus” (Colossians 1:27-28). (M. Rainsford, B. A.)

The hope of His calling

This may be taken either in the sense of the hope which God inspires into the hearts of His people, by the Spirit; or it may be taken for the object of hope. In either case it is scriptural, and might be suitable in this passage; the first includes the second, for when that hope which the Spirit inspires is given to the heart, the “hope laid up for it in heaven” is the object of its anticipation. I therefore take this as being the fullest sense: as the hope to which He calls His people, that is the hope which those who are called by the Lord are privileged to possess and enjoy. God works in the mind, through the medium of its natural feelings. Hope is the great, animating principle of all human conduct. Hope is the expectation of a good to be attained, founded on a belief that we can attain it.

I. The nature of God’s calling.

1. It is a calling to peace (Colossians 3:15).

2. Through peace to hope. Called to inherit a blessing, and so to hope for the inheritance (1 Peter 3:9).

3. It is a sure calling. Those who are called by the Spirit of God are never left to perish.

II. What is the hope founded upon this?

1. It is a hope that springs from faith. Founded on the belief of the truth--the only sure foundation.

2. A sober hope, drawn from the source of God’s truth. The hope of the gospel. (R. J. McGhee, M. A.)

The three whats

I. What is to seen and known according to the text? Three “whats.”

1. What is the hope of His calling? Brethren, let me describe the hope of those of us who have come out to walk by faith in Christ Jesus. We have already obtained enough abundantly to reward us for obedience to the call, and even if nothing were shut up in the closed hand of Hope, her open hand has greatly enriched us. Christian man, you have in possession already the forgiveness of your sin, acceptance in Christ, adoption into the Divine family, and the nature, rank, and rights of a child of God. Still our main possession lies in hope. We carry a bag of spending money in our hands, but the bulk of our wealth is deposited in the Bank of Hope. What then is the Christian’s hope?

2. What are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints?

3. What is the exceeding greatness of His power to usward who believe? Now, learn ye this and know it--that in the conversion, preservation, and salvation of any one person God exhibits as great power as He manifested when He raised Jesus Christ from the dead and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places. The salvation of no man in the world is by his own strength. It is by the power of God, “for we are His workmanship.”

II. Why we wish you to see and know all this.

1. That you may not neglect it, nor set anything in competition with it.

2. That you may see where your hope lies. Not in being your own any more, but in being the Lord’s. If you are His, He will take care of you.

3. That you may not doubt, or despond, or despair, but cast yourselves before the incarnate God, and let Him save you. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Spiritual enlightenment

1. The source of spiritual enlightenment is God.

2. The agency is that of the Holy Spirit.

3. The end sought is the owning of the glory of God. For the marginal reading seems preferable here. “For the acknowledgment” of God, that in this whole matter He may be known, owned, glorified, is this prayer for the enlightenment of His people offered. But now, what is it that in terms of this apostolic prayer we are thus to know? Three things are specified, embracing three aspects of the religious life.

I. “What is the hope of His calling.” The hopefulness of God’s calling; what hope there is in it; how full of hope it is.

1. Consider who it is who calls, and in what character. God, in the character of the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory; the God who gives grace and glory.

2. Consider who are called. Men; all men, such as they are.

3. Consider the nature of this calling.

4. There is hope in this calling of God; as being on the one hand sure on His part, and on the other hand capable of being made sure on our part.

II. “What are the riches of the glory of His inheritance is the saints”; its rich glory; its glorious richness. God takes us to be His inheritance.

III. “And what is the exceeding greatness of His power to usward who believe.” That is the third thing to be known. And here the apostle gives us a measure. It is “according to the working,” etc. It is a measure of amazing compass. It is nothing short of this, that you who believe may rely and reckon upon the power of God as available on your behalf, to the full extent of its exercise on behalf of Christ; in His victory over death, His resurrection to life, His ascension to the right hand of God, and His investiture with dominion over all. Application:

1. The knowledge for which Paul prays is altogether Divine; coming from a Divine source, through a Divine agency, for a Divine end. It is meant to be a knowledge both assured and assuring. But it cannot be so unless these conditions of it are duly observed.

2. The highest point in this threefold knowledge of God is the centre, and that implies your being His saints, His holy ones. It must be as His holy ones that you reach and realize the knowledge of the riches of the glory of His inheritance in you. Let no false humility come in here.

3. The exceeding greatness of God’s power is put forth in your exercising faith: it is “to usward who believe.” (R. S. Candlish, D. D.)

What the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.--

God’s inheritance in His saints

Among men there is possession and inheritance, in beings as in things. The husband has a portion in his wife, and parents have a portion in their children. “Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord.” And, according to the text, God has His inheritance in the saints. He who is the first cause of all things owns all things, and all things are His inheritance, and as part of this vast possession, living beings are God’s peculiar treasure. That God has an inheritance in the things which He has made, is a fact asserted sometimes by Himself (Psalms 50:10-12; Psalms 127:3; Exodus 19:5; Haggai 2:8; Job 41:11, etc.) The redeemed of mankind--men, women, children--are God’s estate, His riches, His wealth.

1. God’s inheritance in the saints is possession of the highest kind. That which lives is superior to that which is inanimate. That which is moral and religious in its constitution is superior to that which is without moral sensibility. And the highest and best beings are they which are most like to God, possessing His image and wearing His likeness. God’s inheritance in the worlds upon worlds which He has made is inferior to His inheritance in the saints.

2. God’s inheritance in the saints is His own original possession. It is underived from any ancestor. He never was heir to it; He holds it in no succession. The saints are His from the beginning, and His alone.

3. While the saints are God’s inheritance naturally, He has a second or double title to the possession (Exodus 15:16; Psalms 74:2; Ephesians 1:14; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, etc.). The sick child lifted up from the gates of death is a special inheritance to the mother who has fondly nursed it. The prodigal son restored to his father is a special inheritance to the parent, whose life was a blank until the lost one was found. A forgiven transgressor, an ungodly man justified, a bad man regenerated, a man in a second sense God’s child, is His peculiar treasure.

4. This inheritance, looked at from the God side and from the heaven side, is a rich and glorious inheritance. Considered from the human and earthly side, the possession is very poor. What can we see in ourselves that can make God rich? But God considers Himself rich and exalted and renowned, in being able to say of His saints, “They are mine.” The state of God’s heart toward His inheritance makes it appear to Himself as rich and glorious. We have seen that God has a rich and glorious inheritance in the saints.

Upon this fact we proceed to make a few practical observations.

1. If God have a rich and glorious inheritance in the saints, He will claim it. He will not leave it alone, as though it did not belong to Him, or as though it were worthless. And God does claim it. He claims it by the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking in the hearts of the saints. He claims it by the Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God. He claims His inheritance by His work upon it. He claims it by His providence over it. He claims it by His conduct, when this inheritance is defiled or given to another. He claims it by frequently reminding His saints that they are not their own.

2. If God have a rich and glorious inheritance in His saints, He will take care of His possession. All the looking to and attention and regard and oversight, which it requires for its safety and prosperity, cannot but be bestowed. And this care will partake of all the qualities of His own nature. It will be independent care, almighty care, righteous care, loving care, sufficient care, perfect care.

3. If God have a rich and glorious inheritance in His saints, He will make use of that inheritance. The little in God’s hand shall produce more, and the more much, and the much a greater abundance. Christians are not senseless ornaments in God’s house, but servants.

4. If God have a rich and glorious inheritance in His saints, He must take pleasure in it. Although this delight may be disturbed by sin and by sorrow, without doubt it exists with no variableness or the shadow of turning.

5. If God have a rich and glorious inheritance in His saints, He will not forsake it. His natural and His special title to it, His having claimed it, His use of it, and care for it, and delight in it, are all so many reasons for retaining it. And He has the capacity and ability to retain it. The inheritance which husbands and wives have in each other, is an inheritance which by reason of death fades away. The inheritance which parents have in children, is one which by reason of death in some cases, of removal from home in other cases, and of other circumstances, either partially or entirely fades away. But in this case the heritor lives, and the inheritance itself is everlasting. And while He lives He changes not.

6. If God have a rich and glorious inheritance in His saints, and if He claim His inheritance, care for it, make use of it, and take pleasure in it, and if He will not forsake it, the saints themselves should think and feel and speak and act and live in harmony with this position. They who come suddenly into a fortune, or rise unexpectedly to a high social position, do not at first see and understand all that is required of them. And thus the appreciation of their position by the saints is a gradual experience.

7. If God have His inheritance in the saints, we ought to esteem it highly, and to cherish a living and loving care for it. Christians should care for themselves, because they are not their own, and should care for themselves for God’s sake. To defile or degrade or debase themselves, or to waste their energies, is to defile and debase and waste the inheritance of God. What motives are here to the cherishing of purity and righteousness and Christ-likeness! And how careful should saints be of each other! (S. Martin, D. D.)

God’s inheritance

Our inheritance in God is Christ, life, righteousness, peace, fulness, acceptance, Fatherhood, grace, and glory! But what can we say of His inheritance in us? Only this. That it is by His saints God intends to make known to principalities and powers in heavenly places His manifold wisdom, tenderness, long suffering, patience, and the boundless and inexhaustible abundance of His mercies and pardoning love. For even as this dark world needs the sun, so doth the sun need a world such as ours to shine upon, else his fulness of light and quickening, gladdening power would be unrevealed. And as the fulness of the earth sets forth the beauty and resources of the sun, so shall His vessels of mercy and His monuments of grace set forth the glory of our God. You may remember God speaks of His people as His “garden.” The figure is very instructive and very beautiful. What our gardens are to the sun, God’s children are to Him. As each flower attracts and absorbs the sun’s rays, receiving and reflecting his light and heat, and giving forth fragrance and fruit according to its nature, absorbing some rays and reflecting others, but all together setting forth in a variety of tints and shades, and fragrance and fruit, the infinite fulness and beauty of the light in which they dwell,--even so it shall be by and by when “the Sun of Righteousness arises on us with healing in His wings.” Each saint shall reflect some blessed aspect of His fulness of grace and glory. One shall set forth His patience, another His tenderness, another His faithfulness, another His strength, another His fulness, another His fruitfulness, another His loving kindness and tender mercies, but all together shall show forth the praises of Him who called them out of darkness into His marvellous light. (M. Rainsford, B. A.)


Verse 19

Ephesians 1:17; Ephesians 1:19

That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the rather of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him.

What young believers require to receive

I. Increase of spiritual perception. Not so much new objects to contemplate, as clearer and deeper knowledge of objects already discerned. This is attained--

1. Through exercise of faith already possessed. It grows with the using.

2. Through the influence of the Holy Spirit. It assimilates the perceiving power to its own nature, and imparts new knowledge of Divine things. The powers of the spirit in general are heightened and extended--“a spirit of wisdom.” Truth not discernible by ordinary human faculties is made known--“revelation.”

II. Closer acquaintance with their Lord. “In the knowledge of Him.” He is the life book we are to study.

III. Access of Divine knowledge.

IV. Growth in experience. Amid the vague, new elements that crowd into their knowledge, certain great, central objects are to be realized most intensely.

1. The hope of their calling. Glory, complete salvation, eternal life, etc., are various aspects of this hope, which it is the great object of Christians to attain.

2. The riches of the glory of the Divine inheritance. The Kingdom of God grows in vastness, glory, and privilege, the more it is contemplated and sought.

3. The Divine resurrection power within themselves. The same power which raised Christ from the dead, and set Him at the right hand of God, works in the believer, evokes spiritual life, and sustains and develops it, from grace to grace, and glory to glory. As they compare their spiritual experience with His in resurrection and ascension, they will have grander realizations of the nature of the resurrection power that is working in themselves, and will trust it more intelligently and absolutely. There is no limit to this experience. (A. F. Muir, M. A.)

The presence of the Holy Ghost in the soul

I. The two mysteries which exist in the manhood of Christ, and in His mystic body, exist also in the ransomed soul; the presence of the Spirit, and union with the Son of God. You may conceive of the indwelling of the Spirit in Christ’s human nature. It was spotless: original sin found no place there. In the foundations of Christ’s created nature, there was no intermingling of the taint of the Fall. In His birth no sin, in His temptations no inward response. His soul was the mirror of unsullied holiness, and therefore a fit dwelling place for the Holy Spirit. But we are conceived in sin, born in sin, may have lived in sin, bear still the remains of a corrupt nature, “the flesh lusteth against the Spirit.” Who would dare then to speak of the indwelling of Almighty God the Comforter in our souls, had He not unmistakably affirmed it? The New Testament points to it as the characteristic glory of Christian life. The Spirit, who first dwelt in Jesus in His fulness, extends His presence to all in union with that manhood. As the little cloud about the size of a man’s hand, when it rose up into the heavens, spread itself out over the whole sky, and there was an abundance of rain, so the Ascended Lord gathers His Saints around Him, and pours down upon the parched earth streams of Divine Life. Each soul in grace is a partaker of the Divine Nature. The pure nature of Christ is the instrument of the Spirit in the soul. There is in every baptized soul, not only the indwelling of the Comforter, but a jet of the Life of Jesus, through which the transformation of our nature is being accomplished, and His character gradually impressed.

II. Again, the expansion of the Church into the world finds its counterpart in the progressive development of the Kingdom of God within the soul. The same vital principles in both, if permitted to put themselves forth, will overcome all opposing forces. Of the Kingdom of God, it is said, the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. This may be true, too, of the reign of Christ in the soul. The Kingdom of God within has its persecutions to pass through. At its secret beginning, the whole of nature is in revolt; but if we are steadfast, grace will finally gain the ascendency, and sit in calm possession of the throne. The command of the Church, to disciple all nations, is only by degrees accomplished; so the leaven of grace in the soul will only gradually penetrate into our whole being, and in the end produce “the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” The treasure of Divine truth, which the Spirit unfolds in the understanding, we will now consider. The understanding, through the Fall, is in a state of darkness as to supernatural things. Reason and conscience are two lights which “rule the night.” They are the only guides by which we find our path. The understanding being thus overclouded, much of the sin that is committed may be traced up to some error in this faculty. The Holy Spirit, as the Illuminator, dispels the darkness, and amplifies the view, correcting and ennobling the natural faculty with the grace of faith, and the gifts of wisdom, understanding, knowledge, and counsel. Faith is the dawn upon the soul of a supernatural world. It is the first fissure through the cloud. It may be only like the breaking of the day, an imperfect view, like the glimpse of the blind man, the sight of “men as trees, walking”; yet it is a revelation of the Invisible. The Invisible becomes a reality. Hence the gift of faith is the one the Spirit employs against the adversary. It is with the shield of faith we are to “quench all the fiery darts of the wicked,” whom we must “resist steadfast in the faith.” Why is faith the chosen engine against the Evil One, the shield of our spiritual armour? It is because through it a new set of motives is brought to bear upon our conduct. For instance: a temptation awaits us; the flesh is weak, and some powerful influence is required to prevent a fall. Faith supplies it. In the early stage of the spiritual life, the thought comes, “There is heaven; if I commit this sin, I may lose it”; or fear is excited; “Here is hell; if I commit sin, I may fall into it.” If there is a deeper life the thought of the Cross of Jesus and His constraining love will be felt; “If I commit this sin, I shall be crucifying Him afresh.” The light of faith furnishing motives which act either upon our fears or hopes, or rekindle our love, fulfils the office of a shield in the day of battle. Besides this grace, the Holy Spirit provides certain gifts which complete His work in the understanding, and are auxiliary to Divine faith. When the apostle used the words of the text, he was praying not simply for general enlightenment, but that his converts might possess and develop certain specific forms of spiritual knowledge. The gift of wisdom is the chief of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. St. Paul prays that the Ephesians may be endued with “the spirit of wisdom”; and Isaiah places it first, when he enumerates the gifts as they dwelt in our Lord. It is the highest quality which the Spirit bestows. The apostle links with the spirit of “wisdom” that of “revelation.” This may correspond with the gift of understanding, for it is a spiritual insight into the mysteries of the kingdom of grace. The gift of knowledge is another form of light, having for its object not God and His perfections, nor the mysteries of grace, but God as He is seen in created things. It discloses His designs in them, what they are in themselves, what purposes they are intended to fulfil, what portions of His being they reflect, how they may be enlisted in His service, and brought through our instrumentality to minister to His glory, how they may be rightfully used or enjoyed. This gift, too, is important as it relates to our inner life. Self-knowledge is obtained through it. The gift of counsel completes our intellectual equipment. Its name describes its nature. It guides the soul in the choice of the best means to be used for arriving at the desired end. It seeks advice from all past occurrences; teaching us how to use our falls, the various remedies to which we have been directed to resort, those which have best suited our disposition, what have been the occasions of sin, what the results,--in short, the gift of counsel treasures up all the complex experiences of the spiritual life, and puts them to account. There are two thoughts which suggest appropriate lessons on this part of our subject. If it be true, that the Holy Ghost dwells within us; that each one is a temple of His presence, and a member of Christ; that our understanding is now replete with such wonderful powers, supplied with Divine lights for the removal of the darkness which sin has occasioned; that the same gifts which the mind of Christ possesses, are in their measure communicated to all His brethren: then, surely, sin committed in such a state, will have a special heinousness about it. Hence there is a more minute inspection of sin in the new dispensation. The inward presence brings up to light inward sin. What a thought to influence our conduct, “I am the temple of God!” The rebuke of the apostle is not now unnecessary, or out of date--“know ye not that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” Another practical conclusion is to be drawn from what has been said. Life is manifested by action. A Divine life will be manifested by actions which exceed the power of nature. If I possess this life, I am thereby rendered capable of doing works which shall be pleasing to God. Grace, as a new principle of action, enables me to do works, which, by nature, I could not do. A supernatural life bestows on my actions a new value, so that they partake of the Eternity of God. The presence of the Holy Spirit imparts to them, when they are wrought in grace, and with a pure intention for God’s glory, an imperishable character. “They are wrought in God.” (W. H. Hutchings, M. A.)

Growth in spiritual knowledge

I. The means whereby this knowledge is attained. “The spirit of wisdom and revelation.” Here are two things--the spirit of wisdom and the spirit of revelation. This “spirit of revelation” I understand to mean “inspiration.” The prayer for its bestowment upon the Ephesian Church was in effect a prayer for the multiplication of its prophets, the then accredited guides and instructors of the Church, in the absence of the apostle, in all that related to spiritual matters. The spirit of revelation, however, is not a need of the Church now since it has the “revelation of the spirit,” for where the revelation of the spirit is, there can be no need for the “spirit of revelation.” But the spirit of wisdom is still a need of the Church, and will ever form one of its first necessities.

1. To secure an attitude of firm, unflinching faith in this revelation. Just as the force by which the earth is hurled along in its ceaseless course through space has never succeeded in overcoming the force by which it is kept in its orbit, so the spirit of wisdom in the Church will ever prevent the centrifugal force of free thought and free criticism from overcoming the centripetal force of faith in the Divine revelation, humanity’s moral sun, the source of its spiritual life and glory.

2. It is not alone in relation to the attitude we are to assume towards God’s Word, in view of the modern spirit of unsparing, not to say reckless, criticism, that the spirit of wisdom is needed. It is needed also as the power by which alone we shall be able to unlock the spiritual secrets of that Word, to explore its hidden treasures, to take in fully and sympathetically its deepest teachings.

II. We come now to consider the second division of the subject of the text, namely, the object to whom this spiritual enlightenment relates--“God.” It is “the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him,” “Him” as described in the preceding part of the verse. The full purport of this expression in reference to the Ephesians will be better understood if we remember that they had until very recently been heathens. It is thus reasonable to suppose that their conceptions of God were very defective. They had not as yet succeeded in entirely divesting their minds of the low, degrading notions of God with which their heathen training had impressed them. They had still much to learn concerning His nature and character. They had constant need of instruction whereby their notions of Him might be purified and elevated. Hence the prayer that they might have the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him. Further, the apostle indicates the particular aspect of the Divine character upon which they were to seek further enlightenment--“the God of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Father of glory.” It is a description of God that covers the whole ground of His redemptive relation to men. And it is God in this inexpressibly glorious aspect of His character that the text represents as the great object of Christian knowledge. It is that the Ephesian believers might have a more abundant entrance into the transcendent glories and the ineffable joy of this truth, that the apostle prays that they might have the spirit of wisdom and revelation.

III. We now come to the consideration of the third truth indicated by the text, namely, the further experiences of spiritual things to which this knowledge of God conduces. The apostle specifies in the text and the next verse three things, to the right and full apprehension of which we come “through the knowledge of Him.” These are--“the hope of His calling,” “the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,” and “the exceeding greatness of His power to usward” and Christward. The first includes God’s purpose in relation to men--to call them into glory. The second refers to the glory that shall accrue to Himself through men thus glorified. The third refers to the transcendent character of the means adopted to secure these glorious ends. Here are three matters of knowledge arrived at by the enlightenment of the understanding through the knowledge of Him. They are matters of transcendent glory, and sweep the whole horizon of our salvation. Yes, we are to come into the full meaning of these superlative truths through our knowledge of God, as the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory. The Divine Being, thus apprehended, is the higher plane from which alone the full glory of our salvation can be viewed and comprehended. It forms our coign of vantage for the attainment of an adequate conception of at least three things respecting this salvation.

1. The grandeur of its aim both as regards the individual and the race.

2. It is as viewed from this higher plane of spiritual knowledge that the infinite reasonableness of this munificent gift of grace and love will reveal itself to the mind.

3. Again, we notice that the knowledge of God is our vantage ground for understanding the infallible certainty of the accomplishment of these great ends. From this standpoint we enter into the full apprehension of the exceeding greatness of His power. Whatever fear or doubt may perplex the mind regarding the realization of the redemptive scheme, on the score of the grandeur of its aim and comprehensiveness of its scope, and the vastness of the difficulties in its way, will vanish in the light of this apprehension of the exceeding greatness of His power. This power covers every difficulty, is, in fact, illimitable and absolute in relation to the Divine purposes. He whose eyes have been enlightened knows this, and in this knowledge rests in unshaken tranquility. (A. J. Parry.)

The spirit of wisdom

1. We must so consider God, when we come to Him in prayer, as to see Him in what we desire. St. Paul when about to pray for these Ephesians who had believed on Christ, and to seek the glorious gifts of the Spirit which might help them to know the glory reserved for them, sets God before him as the God of that Christ whom they had now received by faith into their hearts, and the Father of all glory: both of which considerations strengthened his faith; for he could not think that God, the God of Christ, would be wanting to those who were Christ’s, or that the Father of all glory would deny those glorious gifts which he was about to ask Him to increase. So here is a lesson for all. Wouldst thou have remission of sin? Consider of God as a God with whom there is plenty of redemption or forgiveness. Wouldst thou have ease in any misery and grief? Consider of Him as a Father of all mercy and consolation, when thou comest to Him; this strengthens faith, and inflames affection. We seek things more securely, when we know them to be where we are looking for them; and we follow them more affectionately, when (so to speak) we see them before us.

2. Even true believers have great want of heavenly wisdom. They have it in a certain measure; but fall far short of what may be attained.

3. We need light as well as wisdom. To have inward faculty of seeing is one thing: to have outward light, by means of which to see, is another. Light must come to light before we can see; the light in the eye must meet with the outward light of the sun, or a candle, or some other lightsome body, or nothing is perceived: so the light of wisdom which is in the soul must have shining to it this light of revelation, which makes manifest things spiritual; or else, be our sight never so quick, we shall be environed with darkness. The Spirit, therefore, is fitly compared with fire, which has not only heat resolving numbness and making stiff joints active, but also has light grateful to the eye of the body: so the Spirit has both love which warms our frozen hearts and affections, and also this light of revelation which delights the eye of the understanding and manifests heavenly things to its view.

4. It is God, by the Spirit of Christ, who works in us all true wisdom. It is not pregnancy of natural wit that can make us wise unto salvation, nor ripeness of years: but “the inspiration of the Almighty giveth understanding.” Yet we do attain ripeness of wisdom, under God, by the due use of means.

Worldly wisdom worthless

What does the philosophy of the Agnostic for the despairs of the sinking human soul? Hear the sad summing up of one of the votaries of the cold wisdom of the world, which “knows not God.” It is that of Professor Clifford, dying early, with this sad word on his lips, “My researches have revealed to me a soulless universe, looked down upon by a godless heaven.” (Author of The Harvest of a Quiet Eye.”)

We are nothing without God’s wisdom in us

“See how much they think of me!” said a lantern to some dips that were hanging, on a nail close by. “The master says he doesn’t know what he should do without me these dark nights.” “No doubt,” said the candle; “but he’d sing a different song if it weren’t for one of us inside of you. Did it never occur to you, friend, that you wouldn’t be of the least use to anybody if our light didn’t shine through you?” (Mrs. Prosser.)

The eyes of your understanding being enlightened.

Spiritual eye salve; or, the benefit of illumination

The special grace here prayed for is illumination.

I. The eye is the most excellent organ of sense. In a clear eye, the looker sees his own image; so God, in a sanctified understanding, sees a limited resemblance of His infinite Self. God has set two lids to defend the corporal eye from annoyance; and, in like manner, He has given faith and hope, to shelter the understanding.

1. The situation of this spiritual eye is in the soul. God, framing man’s soul, planted in it two faculties: the superior, that is the understanding, which perceiveth and judgeth; the inferior, that is the will, which being informed of the other, accordingly follows or flies, chooseth or refuseth. The Scripture, favouring the simplest capacity, compares these two powers of the soul to two known parts of the body: the understanding to the eye, the affections to the foot--the eye directing, the foot walking. Every man is naturally born blind and lame: as Zedekiah, captivated to the king of Babylon; first they “put out his eyes” (2 Kings 25:7), and then they lamed his feet with fetters of brass. So is every man by nature, and therefore easily made a slave to the king of infernal Babylon, if the mercy of Christ should not redeem him. This consideration reacheth forth to us two uses; the one of instruction, the other of reprehension:--

2. I come from the situation to the qualification of this spiritual eye: “enlightened.” For this blessing the apostle prays to the “Father of lights, from whom comes every good and perfect gift” (James 1:17): from Him, and from Him only, comes this grace of illumination. I cannot leave this excellent organ, the eye, till I have showed you two things:

Spiritual blindness shall appear the more perilous, if we compare it with natural. The body’s eye may be better spared than the soul’s; as to want the eyes of angels is far worse than to want the eyes of beasts. The want of corporal sight is often good, not evil: evil in the sense, and good in the consequence. He may the better intend heavenly things, that sees no earthly to draw him away. Many a man’s eye hath done him hurt (Genesis 6:4). Besides, the bodily blind feels and acknowledgeth his want of sight; but the spiritually blind thinks that none have clearer eyes than himself. He that wants corporal eyes blesseth them that see; this man derides and despiseth them (John 9:41). The blind in body is commonly led either by his servant, or his wife, or his dog: there may be yet some respect in these guides. But the blind in soul is led by the world, which should be his servant, is his traitor. Now the means to clear this eye is to get it a knowledge of God, of ourselves. That the eye may be cured, this knowledge must be procured. Now God must be known by His works, His word, and His Spirit.

II. We have now done with the organ of seeing, the understanding, or soul’s eye: let us come to the object to be seen, “the hope of His calling, and the riches of the glory of God’s inheritance in the saints.” The object is clear and transparent to a sanctified eye. The philosophers propound six necessary occurrences to our perfect seeing; and you shall see them all here met:--

1. Firmness or good disposition of the organ that seeth. A rolling eye beholds nothing perfectly. A Dinah’s eye is the prologue to a ravished soul.

2. The spectacle must be objected to the sight: the eye cannot pierce into penetralia terrae, or sublimia caeli; nor can the understanding see into these supernatural joys, unless the Lord object them to it. Hence it is that many neglectfully pass by (sine lumine lumen) the light, for want of eyes to regard it.

3. That there be a proportional distance betwixt the organ and the object: neither too near, nor too far off. A bright thing held too near the sight confounds it: be it never so bright, if too far off, it cannot discern it. God hath sweetly ordered and compounded this difference. Those everlasting joys are not close by our eyes, lest the glory should swallow us up; for mortal eyes cannot behold immortal things, nor our corruptible sight see steadfastly that eternal splendour.

4. It is required that the objected matter be substantial; not altogether diaphanous and transparent, but massy, and of a solid being. But this object here proposed is no empty chimera, or imaginary, translucent, airy shadow, but substantial: “the hope of God’s calling, and a glorious inheritance”; which though nature’s dull eye cannot reach, faith’s eye sees perfectly.

5. Clearness of space betwixt the organ and the object; for the interposition of some thick and gross body prevents the faculty of the eye. The quickest eye cannot see through hills; and a crass cloud is able to hide the sun from us at noonday.

6. Lastly, the object must be stable and firm, for if it move too swiftly, it dazzleth the eye, and cannot be truly (according to the perfect form of it) beholden. (T. Manton, D. D.)

The eyes of the understanding

Already, as believers in Christ, we are entitled in Him to all the spiritual blessing and Divine fulness laid up in Him; but for a fuller revelation of Him and of them the apostle prays. If we may use an illustration, it is as if a man were taken during the night to some lofty eminence shrouded in darkness and mystery. Suppose him surrounded on every side by a landscape of surpassing beauty and glory as yet unseen. But presently the morning dawns, the sun arises, the shadows flee away, the mists disperse in all directions, rolling up the mountain side in curling wreaths, and disclosing to the man’s delighted vision the glories of the inheritance that unfolds itself. Such is the case before the apostle’s mind. (M. Rainsford. B. A.)

The eye open to spiritual things

To grow up in the acknowledging of Christ is the way to attain fuller measure of the Spirit in every kind. Everything which respects life or godliness is said to begiven us through the knowledge or acknowledging of Christ. When we first come to know Him as the truth is in Him, we partake according to our measure in His Spirit; when we grow to behold Him as in a mirror or glass, more clearly, we are turned into the same glorious image by the Spirit of the Lord more and more; when we shall see Him and know Him evidently and fully, we shall be as He is. The more we know Him, the more fully He dwells in us, the more we enjoy the influence of His Spirit; even as this bodily sun, the nearer it approaches to us, the more we have the light and heat of it.

1. They whose spiritual sight is restored, have need still to depend upon God, that their eyes may be more and more enlightened by Him. As it is with bodily sicknesses, when we recover from them, health comes not all at once, but by ounces (as we say): so in spiritual. When God raises us up from our death, we neither are fully sanctified, nor yet fully enlightened; it is with us as with the blind man (Mark 8:24); we see, but confusedly and indistinctly. Now this enlightening comprehends these four things, which we have still need to ask God for.

2. Even true believers know not at first, in any measure, those hopes which are kept in heaven for them.

3. There is no grounded hope, but of such things as God has called us to obtain.

4. The inheritance kept for us is abundantly glorious. We are passing through this vale of misery to an excellent eternal weight of glory. Let this draw up our hearts. Riches and glory, what do they not with mortal men? But, alas, these worldly riches and glorious dignities are but pictures, not having the substance of what they show for. Men will sue upon their knees to recover small inheritances on earth. While time lasts, seek this inheritance. Let us think what a heart break it is to a man when he finds that by some default he has forfeited some earthly matters which he might have held had he been wary; but what a grief and confusion will this cause, when men shall see that through carelessness they have lost an everlasting inheritance of glory which they might have attained. There is but one life between us and possession; why should we be so negligent as we are?

5. It is to the saints that this inheritance belongs--those who are not only cleansed from the guilt of dead works, but by the Spirit of Christ renewed to true holiness.

The seat of the spiritual eye

I see there is a rendering of the text which runs thus, “The eyes of your heart being enlightened,” and it strikes me that this version has about it the appearance of being the correct one, because Divine things are usually better seen by the heart than by the understanding. There are a thousand things which God has revealed which we shall never understand, and yet we can know them by a loving, trustful experience. Our Saviour says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” The purifying of the heart is the enlightening of the spiritual eye. Strange as it may seem, the true eye of the renewed man is seated rather in the heart than in the head: holy affections enable us to see, and as far as possible to understand Divine things. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Universal need of enlightenment

This prayer was offered for Christians. He who sees most needs to have his eyes enlightened to see more, for how little as yet of the glory of God have any of us beheld! Even that favoured pilgrim who has been led by the shepherds to the top of Mount Clear, to stand there with telescopic glass and gaze into the glories of Immanuel’s land, has yet only commenced to perceive the things which God has prepared for them that love Him. I pray God that if we do already see, we may see more, until our eye shall be so strengthened that the light of the New Jerusalem shall not be too strong for us, but amid the splendour of God which outshines the sun we shall find ourselves at home. But if believers need to have their eyes enlightened, how much more must those who are unconverted. They are altogether blinded, and consequently their need of enlightenment is far greater. They were born blind, and the god of this world takes care yet further to darken their minds. Around them there broods a sevenfold midnight, the gloom of spiritual death. “They meet with darkness in the daytime, and grope in the noonday as in the night.” O blind eye, may Jesus touch thee! (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The eyes of understanding

Myra used to be entertained by her grandfather, who likened her to a fresh bud, that would soon burst into a flower, and himself to a faded leaf, which was almost ready to fall from the tree. One day, after Myra had taken a pleasant walk with her grandfather, she sat down with her mother, and then they talked together in the following manner: “I wish I had grandfather’s eyes, mother! What can you possibly want with the eyes of your grandfather, Myra?” “Oh, if I had his eyes I should see all that he sees when we are walking together; but now I cannot see half as much as he does.”--“How is that, when you are young and he is old. He often says that his sight is not what it used to be; and though the Bible is in large print, he is obliged to use spectacles.” “Yes, mother, but for all that he can see more than I can.” “Tell me what you mean, my child, for I do not understand you.” “Why, when we walk out in the fields and lanes, let us look at what we will, he says he sees the goodness of God in everything.” “Ah, Myra! it’s not grandfather’s eyes, but grandfather’s faith that you want. Pray to God to open the eyes of your understanding, to give you a heart to love and trust Him, and you will then see Him, not only in all the works of His hand, but in all the events of life.”

Spiritual enlightenment

“I remember once being present,” says Captain Basil Hall, “at a meeting of the Geological Society, when a bottle was produced which was said to contain certain zoophytes (delicate water animals, having the form of plants). It was handed round in the first instance among the initiated on the foremost benches, who commented freely with one another on the forms of the animals in the fluid: but when it came to our hands, we could discover nothing in the bottle but the most limpid fluid, without any trace, so far as our eyes could make out, of animals dead or alive, the whole appearing absolutely transparent. The surprise of the ignorant at seeing nothing was only equal to that of the learned, who saw so much to admire. Nor was it till we were specifically instructed what it was we were to look for, and the shape, size, and general aspect of the zoophytes pointed out, that our understandings began to cooperate with our eyesight in peopling the fluid, which, up to that moment, had seemed perfectly uninhabited. The wonder then was, how we could possibly have omitted seeing objects now so palpable.” How many are the things which appear to the illuminated Christian to be palpably revealed, which the unconverted cannot discover to have any place at all in the Scriptures of Truth; and how very much surprised does he feel, that he could ever have at any former time overlooked them! (F. F. Trench.)

What is the hope of His calling.--

The hope of His calling

Dwell for a moment on--

1. The ground of this hope. His calling! May He not do as He will with His own?

2. The grace of this hope. “The God of all grace has called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus” (1 Peter 5:10). When the Lord Jesus Christ “called blind Bartimeus” (Matthew 20:32), He also “commanded him to be called” (Mark 10:29); and He further commanded him to be brought unto Him (Luke 18:40). And thus it was with our apostle himself. “It pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by His grace, to reveal His Son in me” (Galatians 1:15).

3. The objects of this hope. “Whom He did foreknow, them 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).

4. The subject of this hope. “Christ in you, the hope of glory: whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus” (Colossians 1:27-28). (M. Rainsford, B. A.)

The hope of His calling

This may be taken either in the sense of the hope which God inspires into the hearts of His people, by the Spirit; or it may be taken for the object of hope. In either case it is scriptural, and might be suitable in this passage; the first includes the second, for when that hope which the Spirit inspires is given to the heart, the “hope laid up for it in heaven” is the object of its anticipation. I therefore take this as being the fullest sense: as the hope to which He calls His people, that is the hope which those who are called by the Lord are privileged to possess and enjoy. God works in the mind, through the medium of its natural feelings. Hope is the great, animating principle of all human conduct. Hope is the expectation of a good to be attained, founded on a belief that we can attain it.

I. The nature of God’s calling.

1. It is a calling to peace (Colossians 3:15).

2. Through peace to hope. Called to inherit a blessing, and so to hope for the inheritance (1 Peter 3:9).

3. It is a sure calling. Those who are called by the Spirit of God are never left to perish.

II. What is the hope founded upon this?

1. It is a hope that springs from faith. Founded on the belief of the truth--the only sure foundation.

2. A sober hope, drawn from the source of God’s truth. The hope of the gospel. (R. J. McGhee, M. A.)

The three whats

I. What is to seen and known according to the text? Three “whats.”

1. What is the hope of His calling? Brethren, let me describe the hope of those of us who have come out to walk by faith in Christ Jesus. We have already obtained enough abundantly to reward us for obedience to the call, and even if nothing were shut up in the closed hand of Hope, her open hand has greatly enriched us. Christian man, you have in possession already the forgiveness of your sin, acceptance in Christ, adoption into the Divine family, and the nature, rank, and rights of a child of God. Still our main possession lies in hope. We carry a bag of spending money in our hands, but the bulk of our wealth is deposited in the Bank of Hope. What then is the Christian’s hope?

2. What are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints?

3. What is the exceeding greatness of His power to usward who believe? Now, learn ye this and know it--that in the conversion, preservation, and salvation of any one person God exhibits as great power as He manifested when He raised Jesus Christ from the dead and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places. The salvation of no man in the world is by his own strength. It is by the power of God, “for we are His workmanship.”

II. Why we wish you to see and know all this.

1. That you may not neglect it, nor set anything in competition with it.

2. That you may see where your hope lies. Not in being your own any more, but in being the Lord’s. If you are His, He will take care of you.

3. That you may not doubt, or despond, or despair, but cast yourselves before the incarnate God, and let Him save you. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Spiritual enlightenment

1. The source of spiritual enlightenment is God.

2. The agency is that of the Holy Spirit.

3. The end sought is the owning of the glory of God. For the marginal reading seems preferable here. “For the acknowledgment” of God, that in this whole matter He may be known, owned, glorified, is this prayer for the enlightenment of His people offered. But now, what is it that in terms of this apostolic prayer we are thus to know? Three things are specified, embracing three aspects of the religious life.

I. “What is the hope of His calling.” The hopefulness of God’s calling; what hope there is in it; how full of hope it is.

1. Consider who it is who calls, and in what character. God, in the character of the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory; the God who gives grace and glory.

2. Consider who are called. Men; all men, such as they are.

3. Consider the nature of this calling.

4. There is hope in this calling of God; as being on the one hand sure on His part, and on the other hand capable of being made sure on our part.

II. “What are the riches of the glory of His inheritance is the saints”; its rich glory; its glorious richness. God takes us to be His inheritance.

III. “And what is the exceeding greatness of His power to usward who believe.” That is the third thing to be known. And here the apostle gives us a measure. It is “according to the working,” etc. It is a measure of amazing compass. It is nothing short of this, that you who believe may rely and reckon upon the power of God as available on your behalf, to the full extent of its exercise on behalf of Christ; in His victory over death, His resurrection to life, His ascension to the right hand of God, and His investiture with dominion over all. Application:

1. The knowledge for which Paul prays is altogether Divine; coming from a Divine source, through a Divine agency, for a Divine end. It is meant to be a knowledge both assured and assuring. But it cannot be so unless these conditions of it are duly observed.

2. The highest point in this threefold knowledge of God is the centre, and that implies your being His saints, His holy ones. It must be as His holy ones that you reach and realize the knowledge of the riches of the glory of His inheritance in you. Let no false humility come in here.

3. The exceeding greatness of God’s power is put forth in your exercising faith: it is “to usward who believe.” (R. S. Candlish, D. D.)

What the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.--

God’s inheritance in His saints

Among men there is possession and inheritance, in beings as in things. The husband has a portion in his wife, and parents have a portion in their children. “Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord.” And, according to the text, God has His inheritance in the saints. He who is the first cause of all things owns all things, and all things are His inheritance, and as part of this vast possession, living beings are God’s peculiar treasure. That God has an inheritance in the things which He has made, is a fact asserted sometimes by Himself (Psalms 50:10-12; Psalms 127:3; Exodus 19:5; Haggai 2:8; Job 41:11, etc.) The redeemed of mankind--men, women, children--are God’s estate, His riches, His wealth.

1. God’s inheritance in the saints is possession of the highest kind. That which lives is superior to that which is inanimate. That which is moral and religious in its constitution is superior to that which is without moral sensibility. And the highest and best beings are they which are most like to God, possessing His image and wearing His likeness. God’s inheritance in the worlds upon worlds which He has made is inferior to His inheritance in the saints.

2. God’s inheritance in the saints is His own original possession. It is underived from any ancestor. He never was heir to it; He holds it in no succession. The saints are His from the beginning, and His alone.

3. While the saints are God’s inheritance naturally, He has a second or double title to the possession (Exodus 15:16; Psalms 74:2; Ephesians 1:14; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, etc.). The sick child lifted up from the gates of death is a special inheritance to the mother who has fondly nursed it. The prodigal son restored to his father is a special inheritance to the parent, whose life was a blank until the lost one was found. A forgiven transgressor, an ungodly man justified, a bad man regenerated, a man in a second sense God’s child, is His peculiar treasure.

4. This inheritance, looked at from the God side and from the heaven side, is a rich and glorious inheritance. Considered from the human and earthly side, the possession is very poor. What can we see in ourselves that can make God rich? But God considers Himself rich and exalted and renowned, in being able to say of His saints, “They are mine.” The state of God’s heart toward His inheritance makes it appear to Himself as rich and glorious. We have seen that God has a rich and glorious inheritance in the saints.

Upon this fact we proceed to make a few practical observations.

1. If God have a rich and glorious inheritance in the saints, He will claim it. He will not leave it alone, as though it did not belong to Him, or as though it were worthless. And God does claim it. He claims it by the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking in the hearts of the saints. He claims it by the Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God. He claims His inheritance by His work upon it. He claims it by His providence over it. He claims it by His conduct, when this inheritance is defiled or given to another. He claims it by frequently reminding His saints that they are not their own.

2. If God have a rich and glorious inheritance in His saints, He will take care of His possession. All the looking to and attention and regard and oversight, which it requires for its safety and prosperity, cannot but be bestowed. And this care will partake of all the qualities of His own nature. It will be independent care, almighty care, righteous care, loving care, sufficient care, perfect care.

3. If God have a rich and glorious inheritance in His saints, He will make use of that inheritance. The little in God’s hand shall produce more, and the more much, and the much a greater abundance. Christians are not senseless ornaments in God’s house, but servants.

4. If God have a rich and glorious inheritance in His saints, He must take pleasure in it. Although this delight may be disturbed by sin and by sorrow, without doubt it exists with no variableness or the shadow of turning.

5. If God have a rich and glorious inheritance in His saints, He will not forsake it. His natural and His special title to it, His having claimed it, His use of it, and care for it, and delight in it, are all so many reasons for retaining it. And He has the capacity and ability to retain it. The inheritance which husbands and wives have in each other, is an inheritance which by reason of death fades away. The inheritance which parents have in children, is one which by reason of death in some cases, of removal from home in other cases, and of other circumstances, either partially or entirely fades away. But in this case the heritor lives, and the inheritance itself is everlasting. And while He lives He changes not.

6. If God have a rich and glorious inheritance in His saints, and if He claim His inheritance, care for it, make use of it, and take pleasure in it, and if He will not forsake it, the saints themselves should think and feel and speak and act and live in harmony with this position. They who come suddenly into a fortune, or rise unexpectedly to a high social position, do not at first see and understand all that is required of them. And thus the appreciation of their position by the saints is a gradual experience.

7. If God have His inheritance in the saints, we ought to esteem it highly, and to cherish a living and loving care for it. Christians should care for themselves, because they are not their own, and should care for themselves for God’s sake. To defile or degrade or debase themselves, or to waste their energies, is to defile and debase and waste the inheritance of God. What motives are here to the cherishing of purity and righteousness and Christ-likeness! And how careful should saints be of each other! (S. Martin, D. D.)

God’s inheritance

Our inheritance in God is Christ, life, righteousness, peace, fulness, acceptance, Fatherhood, grace, and glory! But what can we say of His inheritance in us? Only this. That it is by His saints God intends to make known to principalities and powers in heavenly places His manifold wisdom, tenderness, long suffering, patience, and the boundless and inexhaustible abundance of His mercies and pardoning love. For even as this dark world needs the sun, so doth the sun need a world such as ours to shine upon, else his fulness of light and quickening, gladdening power would be unrevealed. And as the fulness of the earth sets forth the beauty and resources of the sun, so shall His vessels of mercy and His monuments of grace set forth the glory of our God. You may remember God speaks of His people as His “garden.” The figure is very instructive and very beautiful. What our gardens are to the sun, God’s children are to Him. As each flower attracts and absorbs the sun’s rays, receiving and reflecting his light and heat, and giving forth fragrance and fruit according to its nature, absorbing some rays and reflecting others, but all together setting forth in a variety of tints and shades, and fragrance and fruit, the infinite fulness and beauty of the light in which they dwell,--even so it shall be by and by when “the Sun of Righteousness arises on us with healing in His wings.” Each saint shall reflect some blessed aspect of His fulness of grace and glory. One shall set forth His patience, another His tenderness, another His faithfulness, another His strength, another His fulness, another His fruitfulness, another His loving kindness and tender mercies, but all together shall show forth the praises of Him who called them out of darkness into His marvellous light. (M. Rainsford, B. A.)


Verse 19-20

Ephesians 1:19-20

And what the exceeding greatness of His power to usward who believe.

The mighty power which creates and sustains faith

1. Be it never forgotten by us that the salvation of a soul is a creation. Now, no man has ever been able to create a fly, nor even a single molecule of matter. No human or angelic power can intrude upon this glorious province of Divine power. Creation is God’s own domain. Now, in every Christian there is an absolute creation. “Created anew in Christ Jesus.”

2. In the regeneration of every soul there is a destruction as well as a creation. The old man has to be destroyed.

3. The work of salvation is most truly a transformation. “Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.” You who have been made anew in Christ Jesus, know in your own hearts how great that transformation is.

4. Remember, too, as if this were not enough, that the conversion of a soul is constantly compared to quickening--the quickening of the dead. How great the miracle when the dry bones in Ezekiel’s vision suddenly became a great army!

I. Consider the analogy which the apostle here points out. You have to conceive of the power by which the dead body of Christ is brought to all that preeminence of honour, and then to remember that just such power is seen in you if you are a believer.

1. In examining the wonderful picture before us, we begin with Christ in the grave, by noticing that it was in Christ’s case a real death. So with us; by nature we are really dead. Our heart is dead in trespasses and sins.

2. Among the dead. Our outward life was just like that of other ungodly men.

3. A heavenly messenger comes. There is a Divine mandate for our resurrection, as much as for that of Jesus Christ.

4. There came with that messenger a mysterious life.

5. An earthquake.

6. The stone being removed, forth came the Saviour. He was free; raised up no more to die; He stood erect, beheld by His followers, who, alas I did not know Him. And even so we, when the Divine life has come, and the Divine energy has burst our tomb, come forth to a new life.

7. In the resurrection of Christ, as in our salvation, there was put forth nothing short of a Divine power. It was not angelic or arch-angelic, much less was it human. It is not the ministry, it is not the Word preached, nor the Word heard in itself; all the power proceeds from the Holy Ghost.

8. Observe again, that this power was irresistible. All the soldiers and the high priests could not keep the body of Christ in the tomb. Irresistible is the power put forth, too, in the Christian. No sin, no corruption, no temptation, no devils in hell, nor sinners upon earth, can never stay the hand of God’s grace when it intends to convert a man.

9. Observe, too, that the power which raised Christ from the dead was glorious reflected great honour upon God and brought, great dismay upon the hosts of evil. So there is great glory to God in the conversion of every sinner.

10. Lastly, it was everlasting power. “Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over Him.” So we, being raised from the dead, go not back to our dead works nor to our old corruptions, but we live unto God. The parallel will hold in every point, however minute. “Like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”

We have only proceeded so far as to see Christ raised from the dead; but the power exhibited in the Christian goes further than this--it goes onward to the ascension.

1. If you will carefully read the story of the ascension, you will notice first that Christ’s ascension was contrary to nature. How should the body of a man without any means be borne upward into the air? “While He blessed them He was taken out of their sight.” So the Christian’s rising above the world, his breathing another atmosphere, is clean contrary to nature.

2. You will observe again, that the disciples could not long see the rising Saviour. “A cloud received Him out of their sight.” So in our case, too, if we rise as we should rise, if the Spirit of God worketh in us all the good pleasure of His will, men will soon lose sight of us. They will not understand us; they will be certain to run hither and thither, wondering at this and marvelling at that; they will call us mad, fanatical, wild and enthusiastic, and I know not what.

3. Jesus Christ continued to ascend by that same Divine power, until He had reached the seat of heaven above; He was gone, really gone from earth altogether. Such is the Christian’s life. He continues to ascend, the Lord makes him dead to the world, and the carnal multitude know him no more.

4. See, beloved, we have stretched our compass somewhat wide now, when we say that there is as much Divine power seen in raising the Christian above the world, as in raising Christ from the grave into heaven. But that is not all. When the Master had come to heaven, we are told in the text that He was made to sit down at the right hand of God. Sitting at the right hand implies honour, pleasure, and power. Conceive the change!--from depths of reproach to heights of glory; from fearful deeps of sorrow to glorious summits of bliss; from weakness, shame, and suffering, to strength, majesty, dominion, glory. Such is the change in the Christian too.

5. Complete triumph. “Far above all principalities and powers.” As Christ, so Christ’s, for we are in Him.

6. You will not fail to observe that He has also universal dominion. Follow the passage--“And hath put all things under His feet.” And so hath the Lord put all things under His people’s feet. Their sins and corruptions, their sorrows and afflictions, this world and the world to come, are all made subject unto us, when He makes us kings and priests, that we may reign forever.

II. Now we must note, in the second place, the reason of this. Why does God put forth as much power towards every Christian as He did in His beloved Son? Well, my brethren, I believe the reason is not only that the same power was required, and that by this means He getteth great glory, but the reason is this--union. It lays in the word--union. There must be the same Divine power in the member that there is in the head, or else where is the union? If we are one with Christ, members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones, there must be a likeness.

1. Note, first, that there cannot be a body at all--I mean not a true living body--unless the members are of the same nature as the head. If you could conceive a human head joined to bestial limbs, you would at once understand that you were not looking upon a natural body. If here were a dog’s foot, and there a lion’s mane, and yet a man’s eyes and a human brow, you could never conceive of it as a body of God’s creation; you would look upon it as a strange monstrosity, a tiring to be put out of sight, or to be shown for fools to gaze at as a nine-days’ wonder; but certainly not as a thing to display Divine wisdom and power. A body of God’s making will be of the same material all the way through.

2. If all the members were not like the head and did not display the same power it would not be glorious to God. Some of the old tapestries were made at different times and in different pieces, and occasionally the remark is heard, “That part of the battle scene must have been wrought by a different needle from the other. You can see here an abundance, and there a deficiency of skill; that corner of the picture has been executed by a far inferior hand.” Now, suppose in this great tapestry which God is working--the great needlework of His love and power--the mystical person of Christ--that we should say, “The head has been wrought, we can see, by a Divine hand; that glorious brow, those fire-darting eyes, those honey-dropping lips, are of God, but that hand is by another and an inferior artist, and that foot is far from perfect in workmanship.” Why, it would not be glorious to our Great Artist; but when the whole picture is by Himself we see that He did not begin what He could not finish, and that He has not inserted a single thread of inferior value.

3. Note again, that it would not be glorious to our Head. I saw the other day a cathedral window in the process of being filled with the richest stained glass. Methinks the great person of Christ may be compared to that great cathedral window. The artists had put in the head of the chief figure in the most beautiful glass that ever human skill could make, or human gold could purchase; I have not seen it since, but imagine for an instant that the workers afterwards found that their money failed them, and they were obliged to fill in the panes with common glass. There is the window, there is nothing but a head in noble colours, and the rest is, perhaps, white glass, or some poor ordinary blue and yellow. It is never finished. What an unhappy thing, for who will care to see the head? It has lost its fulness. There is the head, but it is strangely circumstanced. If you complete it with anything inferior, you mar and spoil it; it is the head of an imperfect piece of workmanship. But, dear friends, when all the rest of the picture shall have been wrought out with just the same costly material as the first part, then the head itself shall be placed in a worthy position, and shall derive glory from as well as confer glory upon the body. Ye can read this parable without an interpreter.

4. I must add, that if anything, the power manifested in the member should be greater than that manifested in the head--if anything, it should be greater. A marble palace is to be built. Well, now, if they build (and oh, how many people do this kind of thing in their houses) the front with costly stone, and then erect the back with common stock bricks; if the pinnacles be made to soar with rich Carrara to the skies, and then down in the walls common stone is seen, everybody says, “This was done to save money.” But if the whole structure throughout, from top to bottom, is of the same kind, then it reflects much honour upon the great builder, and declares the wealth which he was able to expend upon the structure. But suppose that some of the blocks of marble used in the foundation have lain in a very dark quarry, and have been subject to damaging influences, so that they have lost their gloss and polish, then surely they will want more polishing, more workmanship, to make them look like that bright cornerstone, that noble pinnacle which is brought out with shoutings. Christ Jesus was in His nature fit, without any preparing, to be a part of the great temple of God. We in our nature were unfit; and so, if anything, the power should be greater; but we are constrained to rejoice that we find in Scripture that it is just the same power which lifted the man Christ Jesus to the throne of God, which now shall lift each one of us to live and reign with Him. Moreover, to conclude this point, the loving promise of our Lord will never be fulfilled (and He will never be contented unless it be), unless His people do have the same power spent upon them as He has.

III. Inferences.

1. What a marvellous thing a Christian is.

2. Why should I doubt God’s power for others? If He has put forth so much power to save me, cannot He save anyone?

3. Why should I ever have any doubts about my ultimate security? Is this irresistible power engaged to save me? Then I must be saved.

4. How doleful the state of those who are not converted. But God may have pity on you yet. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Resurrection power

I. The prerogative of God. Originally the possession of God the Father, then conferred on the Son of God. It was through “the eternal Spirit” Christ offered Himself, and by the Spirit He was quickened (Hebrews 9:14; 1 Peter 3:18).

II. Exercised chiefly in the case of the Son of God.

1. In restoring life.

2. In exalting life to higher conditions and more spiritual states.

3. In glorifying the human nature.

4. In bestowing universal power and authority.

III. Extended to believers.

1. This suggests the greatness of the work requiring to be accomplished with regard to them.

2. It increases their faith. By the revelation of the vastness of the power that is being put forth; by the light cast upon their own experience; and by the pledge it affords of God’s faithfulness. (A. F. Muir, M. A.)

The glorious analogy of spiritual life in believers

The universality and power of the gospel are grandly reflected in this Epistle--like Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress,” the outcome of solitary meditation in a cell. So the simplest disciple is the germ of all The gospel is magnified, and the believer encouraged by this demonstration of the mighty power of God in resurrection, because His spiritual life is--

I. Caused by the Risen One.

1. Originated.

2. Sustained.

II. Itself a manifestation of the same power. The new life is a resurrection from spiritual death.

III. Interpreted and ennobled by its fellowship with Christ in His resurrection. The latter was the greatest miracle of time. It transcended all the antecedent phenomena of nature and human history, and even the mightiest works of Christ’s life, previous to His crucifixion, are that--

1. Greater forces were opposed.

2. The question at stake was infinitely greater.

3. The Risen One was to have power to quicken others.

4. He was raised through and into “the power of an endless life.”

(a) To help us to a true estimate of the spiritual life--of all that it has involved in order to its creation and continuance, and of its character as a communion with “the things that are above” (Colossians 3:1-2).

(b) To encourage us. We are not alone. The weakest saint is sustained by this “mighty power.” Fellowship with Christ reveals a glorious destiny. (A. F. Muir, M. A.)

Those who think it easy to believe are destitute of saving faith

I. The difficulty of believing. That which requires the greatest power and strength to effect it, is no easy thing. But believing requires the greatest power to effect it. Therefore it is no easy thing to believe. I prove the assumption; namely, that the greatest power in heaven and earth is required to raise up faith in us.

1. Because faith deals with the power of God only about those things which it believes. Bears itself up upon that; and when God is about to persuade a sinner to believe His free grace, He first convinces him of His power, that He is able to perform His promises.

2. Because no natural principle in man can take in the objects of faith. Flesh and blood cannot reveal them to us. Faith is an act above reason.

3. That which makes believing so difficult, is the seeming contradictory acts of faith. It seems not to consist with itself. Here I take faith more generally, as it has for its object the whole Word of God, the law and the gospel. The special object of faith, as saving, is the promise; saving faith seeks life, which is not to be found in commandments and threats, but in a promise of mercy. Faith, acting upon the whole Word of God, seems to contradict itself; for faith believes, a sinner is to die according to the law, and that he shall live according to the gospel. Faith has the Word of God for both, both for the death and life of a sinner; and both are true. The law must be executed, and the promise must be performed; but how to reconcile this is not so obvious and easy to every one. “Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid” (Galatians 3:21). It is impossible both should be accomplished in the person of a sinner; he cannot die eternally, and live eternally; yet both are wonderfully brought about by Jesus Christ, according to the manifold wisdom of God, without any derogation to His law and justice.

4. The reigning unbelief that is among the generality of men. So it was in our Saviour’s time: the Jews, who had been the only professors of the true religion for many ages, in opposition to all idolatry and false worship--they stumble at the gospel; the Greeks, who were the more learned sort of the heathen world--they counted it “foolishness.”

5. The notorious apostasy of many professors this day, who have made shipwreck of faith and a good conscience (1 Timothy 1:19), may convince you all that it is no easy matter to believe; so to believe as to persevere in the faith.

6. Believers themselves find it a difficult matter to act their faith. If their lives lie upon it, they cannot act it at their pleasure, without the special aid and assistance of the Spirit. It is God [that] must “work in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).

II. The reason why many professors count it an easy thing to believe. The main reason is this, and I will insist upon no other; namely, because they mistake a formal profession of faith for real believing. A formal profession is general; takes up religion in gross, but is not concerned in any one point of it. But real believing is particular; brings down every gospel truth to ourselves, shows us our concernment in it.

III. They who count it an easy matter to believe, are destitute of saving faith. I prove it thus--

1. They who have never found any conflict in themselves about believing, are destitute of saving faith: but they who count it an easy matter to believe, have never found any conflict in themselves about believing: if faith did not act in opposition to carnal reason, and carry it against all the strong reasonings of the flesh to the contrary, supernatural truths would never enter, never be admitted, never find acceptance in the soul; we should never be brought over to assent to them, so as to make them the sure ground of our trust and confidence in God. Bat faith captivates all rebellious thoughts that exalt themselves against the knowledge of God (2 Corinthians 10:5), as if they could disprove all that the gospel says; but the demonstrations of the Spirit are with that power, that we cannot resist them.

2. They who were never convinced of the sinfulness of sin, and of the dreadfulness of God’s wrath against sinners, are destitute of saving faith: but they who count it an easy matter, etc. I do not mean that all must pass under the like terrors of conscience: some have a more easy passage from a state of nature to grace, from death to life, from terror to comfort; they may sooner get over their fears, and attain to peace, than others may.

3. Those who have never been tempted to unbelief, are destitute of saving faith: but those who count it an easy matter to believe, were never sensible of any temptation to unbelief. No man ever got over temptation to unbelief without difficulty. Unbelief has much to say for itself; and it will be sure to say all it can to hinder the soul from closing in with Christ.

4. He who is not much in prayer, much in the use of all means to increase and strengthen his faith is destitute of saving faith. But he who counts it an easy matter to believe takes no pains this way, but thinks he can believe at any time. Then thou canst do that which flesh and blood never did, that no mortal man ever did in his own strength.

5. He who does not look upon a life of faith to be a careful, studious, laborious life, is destitute, etc. Faith has new rules, counsels, and methods of living, that a man was never acquainted with before: he meets with many scruples: doubts, and intricate cases, that put him to it, to find out the right way of pleasing God; for that is the great design of faith. (T. Cole, M. A.)

The power working in believers

The power that is working in them is not a weaker power, nor another power, but the same power, as that which wrought in the crucified and entombed body of our Lord. Paul sends us to that chamber in the rock, for our chief lesson. There lies the mangled and bloodless body. A lance has been thrust through His heart: not a drop of blood remains therein. Watch, and you shall see God’s own illustration of His power and working in all believers. By nature, we are as sepulchres in which our immortal nature lies in death. Only God can raise us from the dead. Year by year He raises nature from the dead, but He hides His great power under a veil of surprising gentleness. The effects are seen, but we see not the power working. Even so Jesus rose from the dead. There was neither stir nor voice in that tomb. God filled that lifeless form, as the spring warmth fills the trees, swells their buds, and opens them into leaf. Jesus rose as quietly as a flower lifts its head to the dawn. Calmly, and as free from excitement, as one awaking from sleep, He left the sepulchre. The linen that was about His body bore witness to His calm self-possession. A leisurely hand had folded it up. Such is the Godlike way in which death is destroyed by a power greater than death, and the light of immortality kindled in man. Man is saved. The power that moves in the tree, moves in the branches too. “I am the vine, you are the branches.” His new life warmth is in us. Christ liveth in us. The diffusion of His ascension through our souls is as much a fact as the diffusion of solar rays through the earth. The change which has been wrought in Christ shall be wrought in His members also. (John Pulsford.)

The power of God working in believers

I. God’s believing children know not at first at all clearly the great power of God which works in them. As He reveals His wisdom in afflicting us once, twice, and we hear Him not; so He manifests His power again and again, but we are not able to conceive it. By what means may we come to know this power better?

1. By seeking to God, who has promised that we shall know Him to the least of us, praying Him to open our eyes, that we may see His glory more clearly.

2. By looking into that double mirror of His Word and His works, through which the light of His glorious power is reflected to us.

3. By observing the experience we have ourselves of this power both working in us and for us.

4. They in whom the power of God works are true believers. The more we are united by faith with God in Christ, the more does His virtue or power work upon us, both in conforming us to Himself, and in doing otherwise what is desirable.

3. It is the effectual working of God’s Almighty power which brings us to believe. The creating of us anew in Christ is a greater work than giving us our natural being in Adam, and therefore may not be ascribed to any power which is not almighty. This will be more apparent if we consider

The greatness of God’s power

Pompey boasted that, with one stamp of his foot, he could rouse all Italy to arms; but God by one word of His mouth, nay, by a wish of His mind alone, can summon the inhabitants of heaven, earth, and the undiscovered worlds, to His aid, or bring new creatures into being to do His will.

God’s power of raising to life

If this earth could but have its mantle torn away for a little while, if the green sod could be cut from it, and we could look about six feet deep into its bowels, what a strange world it would seem! What should we see? Bones, carcasses, rottenness, worms and putrifying corruption. And you would say, Can these dry bones live? Can they again start up into being? Yes, “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump, the dead shall be raised.” God speaks--they are alive! See them scattered! bone comes to his bone. See them naked! flesh comes upon them. See them still lifeless. “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain!” When the wind of the Holy Spirit comes, they live; and they stand upon their feet, an exceeding great army. Will there be any longer doubt among men of God’s power in having raised His own Son from the dead? And not only so, but of having exalted Him to His throne in heaven above? (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The resurrection a fact

So clear is the evidence of Christ’s resurrection, that when Gilbert West--a celebrated infidel--selected this subject as the point of attack, sitting down to weigh the evidence and to digest the whole matter, although filled with prejudice, he was so startled with the abundant witness to the truth of this fact, that he expressed himself a convert, and has left as a heritage for coming generations a most valuable treatise, entitled, “Observations on the Resurrection of Christ.” He laid down certain laws of evidence to begin with, and then went to the matter as though he had been a lawyer examining the pros and cons of any matter in dispute; and this, which is the fundamental doctrine of our faith, seemed to him so exceedingly clear that he renounced his unbelief, and became a professor of Christianity. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Resurrection honours

Passing by a house a short time since I noticed the intimation, “This House to Let.” “How is this? Is the former tenant dead?” I asked. “Oh no, sir,” said the caretaker; “he has removed to a larger house in a better situation.” Even thus, as we look upon the clay tenement in which some loved Christian friend has dwelt, we answer, “No, he is not dead, but removed into the enduring house in ‘the better country,’ where the ‘better resurrection’ is, and where eternal life is.” (Henry Varley.)

The fact and power of the resurrection

Of one lever and power the apostles of Christ speak with enthusiasm. When they touch upon the Resurrection, their words are winged with rapture, and burst into anthems.

I. The fact of the resurrection. Compare the narratives of St. Matthew and St. Luke with that of St. John. It is as nearly as possible correct to say that in the accounts of the risen Lord, St. Matthew mentions Galilee without Jerusalem (after the first appearance), while St. Luke mentions Jerusalem without Galilee. And in this respect St. Matthew is consistent with his purpose from the beginning. St. John, on the other hand, gives us, after his fashion, an idealized picture of the risen Jesus. He selects the appearances which he will relate, and moulds the record so as to show the identity (under glorified conditions) of the “Word made flesh” before and after the resurrection. That is

II. The power of the resurrection.

1. Think of that power in increasing and sustaining the Church. In our time the Church seems weak. In one great capital of Europe the Good Friday of the present year saw a hideous revel, a ball of Antichrist, in which masked dancers moved to the strains of the sacred music which is heard in Christian churches. And people ask--why are such blasphemers allowed to live? why are they not struck dead? Ah! He is patient because He is eternal. If we could follow the histories of those revellers to the end, let us be sure that we should find not a few of them bowing before Him. And that for two reasons. First, the soul cannot live without God. A boy who lived in a rude cottage by the sea was once found by a wealthy relative and taken to an inland valley. There he was given a fairer home, and surrounded by every luxury. But he missed something sorely. He missed the morning and evening music of the tumbling tides, and the dewy spray upon his cheeks; and he climbed the highest point of the farthest hill, until far off, with a beating heart and moisture upon his eyelid, he saw a blue speck in the distance, and cried, “the sea!” And so the human soul misses that eternal, infinite Ocean which we call God. And as the ocean child cries--“give me the ocean!” so the soul, made for God and restless ever until it finds rest in Him, cries--“give me God!” Again, of those revellers there are some whom Christ will one day win by His voice. He will lay them on a sick bed. In His loving discipline He will open their hearts with that pierced hand which knows every bolt of the door of the heart. And when they are asked--“how were you converted?”--they will say that Jesus is not a memory, but a Person; that He lives and works, not as Napoleon or Luther, by the mere influence of a history and of ideas, but by a present living love; and that God has acted upon them “according to the working of the mighty power which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead.”

2. Consider the power of the resurrection in making believers holy. There is one great principle of the spiritual life which is deeply imbedded in the thought of St. Paul, and which pervades the conception of the Church’s year. All that was done in Christ is mystically repeated in Christ’s people.

3. Think of the power of the resurrection as regards our hope for the future of our dead. Remember what has been said of the two closing chapters of St. John.

4. Consider, lastly, the bearing of this resurrection power as a principle of conciliation in the national life of Christian nations. What if a nation contains within its womb two races and two manners of people? What if each of those two races has its own hostile tradition and its own thread of history, in whose texture the strands of right and wrong are so strangely intertwined that the subtlest analysis fails to distinguish where one ends and the other begins? “The muse of history is, after all, not hate, but love.” So wrote a great French philosophic historian more than half a century ago. In this our land there shall yet be two words, not stamped upon stone or metal, upon coin or plinth, but upon the fleshy tables of men’s hearts, upon remote mountains, in great cities where the voice of thousands, homeless, or barricaded within squalid walls, now rises like the restless hum of bees that have lost their queen. These two words are--“Pacata Hibernia.” From brother to brother shall come the Easter greeting which came first from the heart of the Risen Christ--“peace be unto you.” The resurrection of love will be the true resurrection of our nation. (Bp. Wm. Alexander.)

The wonderfulness of Christ’s resurrection

How is it that Paul speaks with such a passion of emphasis of “the working of the strength of God’s might which He wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead”? The apostle seems struggling with an idea too large for expression. The Divine power manifested in the resurrection of Christ appears to him so immense that he accumulates epithet on epithet to describe it. What is the explanation of the extraordinary strength of the apostle’s language? The answer is to be found in the unique character of our Lord’s resurrection. When the daughter of Jairus was brought back to life, she returned to the same life that she had lived before she died; she was a child again in her father’s home. We know nothing of her later history; but if she lived many years she passed through all the common experiences of the race; she grew up to womanhood; she may have married; she had the ordinary cares and sorrows and joys of womanhood; illness came to her as it came to others, and at last she died a second time and was buried. It was the same with the young man at Nain. He went home with his mother, continued to work at his trade, took once more the place in the common ranks of men which for a few hours had been vacant, lived and died like other men. It was the same with Lazarus. He took up the broken threads of life just where he had left them, and was the same man that he had always been, except that the days of death and the hour in which at the command of Christ he returned to the common paths of men must always have been recalled by him with a certain wonder and awe. But the resurrection of Christ was not a return to the life which death had interrupted. It was the beginning of a new life under altogether new conditions. The resurrection was followed by the ascension. (R. W. Dale, LL. D.)

The sovereignty of the risen Christ

Paul attributes to Christ a real and effective sovereignty over all worlds, seen and unseen. He is not merely surrounded with the pomp and circumstance of supreme authority. He does not merely watch, with a perfect sympathy of joy, the infinite activities of the Divine life and the tremendous manifestations of the Divine power, as a son might watch the successive triumphs of his father’s heroism and his father’s genius. He Himself is Lord of all. He controls and governs all the immense forces of the material universe, and the more immense and awful forces of the moral and spiritual universe. He, the Christ whom men knew on earth, He--and not another--He who was born at Bethlehem, who was a child in the home of Joseph and Mary at Nazareth, who grew in wisdom and stature, who was tempted, who delivered the sermon on the mount, whose arms enfolded little children, who was betrayed by Judas, who was charged with treason against Caesar and with blasphemy against God, who was scourged, who was crucified--He, and not another, is Lord of all. He is supreme in the Church as well as in the rest of the universe; and the Church is “His body” in which all the wealth and the energy of His life are revealed, the perfect organ of His will, the very home of His glory. And yet it is not in the Church alone that the power and glory of Christ are manifested. He gives to the whole creation its substantial being; apart from Him it would be a phantom universe; He is the centre and support of universal law; the spring of universal life; the author of all beauty and of all joy and blessedness: He filleth all in all. (R. W. Dale, LL. D.)


Verse 20-21

Ephesians 1:20-21

And set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality.

The Christian’s exaltation

1. The same power which raised Christ, raises us.

2. God leaves His dearest children to the depth of misery before He sends relief.

3. God always sends salvation to His people in due time. There is a double salvation.

4. Glory correspondent to humiliation. (Paul Bayne.)

The throne resumed

I. The throne of essential and eternal majesty, which from everlasting belonged to Christ. Sovereign of all worlds, ruling in the armies of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth, swaying the sceptre as a right of His own self-existence, which the Father owned, and which the Holy Ghost taught the apostle to call “the sceptre of Christ.” Well, then, we are forbidden to find any fault with the manner in which he sways that sceptre. It is a right sceptre. If He sways it to bring a scourge on the land, it is right; if He sways it to bring affliction on any of His people, it is right. If He sways His sceptre to thwart our carnal desires and imaginations, it is right. Now this sceptre of righteousness, this righteous sceptre, which Jesus sways from His high throne eternal in the heavens, set up from everlasting or ever the earth was made, demands righteousness in all the creature performs; and while He bestows and communicates it to all the election of grace, it is so far a sceptre of righteousness that He will execute righteous judgment upon all who live and die haters of His gospel and His truth, and He will extend from the top of His sceptre, as Ahasuerus did to Esther, life, and privilege, and promise, “Whatsoever ye ask shall be done.”

II. Look now at the humiliation to which Christ stooped from His eternal, essential throne. “Though He was in the form of God, and thought it not robbery to be equal with God,” yet He “took not on Him the nature of angels,” much as He loved them, and much as He employed them, but He “took upon Him the seed of Abraham,” and “humbled Himself, and became obedient to death, even the death of the cross.” Then observe, this stoop of humiliation was for the purpose of establishing His mediatorial kingdom on earth.

III. The enthronization resumed. The Father has raised Him up, having suffered the penalty, paid all, done all, conquered all, rescued all the election of grace from the ruin of the Fall. The Father hath raised Him up--not to go through another scene of poverty, persecution, despising, and ridicule, but set Him at His own right hand, as the emblem of power, and that, too, in heavenly places. Then I view my glorious Christ ascended up to where He was before, and exalted up far above all heavens to fill all things, that from His high throne He may manage still all the affairs of His Church, invested with official authority, insisting on the progress and prosperity of His Church, imparting all supplies of grace, even grace for grace, and having engaged, under solemn responsibility, to bring all His redeemed and regenerated family to sit with Him upon His throne. But there are more heavenly places than one. It is given in my text in the plural. I grant the first meaning to be, on the throne of glory in the invisible world, in common with the Father and the Holy Ghost, having all power given to Him in heaven and in earth, that He may give eternal life to as many as the Father hath given Him, viewing Him there enthroned, and never more to quit the throne. Then observe, He is seated at the Father’s right hand, as well as all these heavenly places, to give of His fulness for the reception of His Church; and therefore the apostle said, “Of His fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.” Glory to His name, that we have liberty to come as often as we feel our grace vessel empty, and have it replenished, crying unto Him, “More grace, Lord; more grace, Lord!” (J. Irons.)

The exaltation of Christ

1. Our Saviour Christ, as man, is taken to have prerogative before every other creature.

2. Christ not only as God, but as man also, has power over every creature.

3. Christ is crowned with glory at God’s right hand before and above all things.

4. There is a world to come, in which those who are Christ’s shall reign with Him forever.

The triumph and glory of heaven

Heaven is a place of complete victory and glorious triumph. This is the battlefield; there is the triumphal procession. This is the land of the sword and the spear; that is the land of the laurel wreath and jewelled crown. This is the land of the garment rolled in blood, and of the dust of the fight; that is the land of the trumpet’s joyful sound; that is the place of the white robe, and of the shout of conquest. Oh, what a thrill of joy shall shoot through the hearts of all the blessed when their conquests shall be complete in heaven; when death itself, the last of man’s foes, shall be slain; when Satan shall be dragged captive at the chariot wheels of Christ; when He shall have overthrown sin, and trampled corruption as the mire in the streets; when the great shout of universal victory shall rise from the hearts of all the redeemed. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

Christ now in heaven

Suppose a king’s son should get out of a besieged prison and leave his wife and children behind, whom he loves as his own soul; would the prince, when arrived at his father’s palace, please and delight himself with the splendour of the Court, and forget his family in distress. No; but having their cries and groans always in his ears, he should come to his father, and entreat him, as ever he loved him, that he would send all the forces of his kingdom and raise the siege, and save his dear family from perishing. Nor will Christ, though gone up from the world and ascended into glory, forget for a moment His children that are left behind Him militant here on earth. (W. Gurnall.)


Verses 20-23

Verse 22

Ephesians 1:22

And gave Him to be Head over all things to the Church.

The kingly office of Christ

In this scripture let these four things be seriously regarded.

1. The dignity and authority committed to Christ. “He hath put all things under His feet”; which implies full, ample, and absolute dominion in Him, and subjection in them over whom He reigns. This power is delegated to Him by the Father: for besides the essential, native, ingenite power and dominion over all, which He hath as God, and is common to every person in the Godhead (Psalms 22:28), there is a mediatory dispensed authority, which is proper to Him as mediator, which He receives as the reward or fruit of His suffering (Philippians 2:8).

2. The subject recipient of this authority, which is Christ, and Christ primarily and only. He is the first receptacle of all authority and power. Whatever authority any creature is clothed with, is but ministerial and derivative, whether it be political or ecclesiastical. Christ is the only Lord (Jude 1:4). The fountain of all power.

3. The object of this authority, the whole creation; “all things are put under His feet.” He rules from sea to sea, even to the utmost bounds of God’s creation; “Thou hast given Him power over all flesh” (John 17:2). All creatures, rational and irrational, animate and inanimate, angels, devils, men, winds, seas, all obey Him.

4. And especially, take notice of the end for which He governs and rules the universal Empire. It is for the Church, i.e., for the advantage, comfort, and salvation of that; chosen remnant He died for. He purchased the Church; and that He might have the highest security that His blood should not be lost, God the Father hath put all things into His hand, to order and dispose all as He pleaseth. For the furtherance of that His design and end, as He bought the persons of some, so the services of all the rest; and that they might effectually serve the end they are designed to, Christ will order them all in a blessed subordination and subserviency thereunto. (J. Flavel.)

Christ’s sovereignty and its administration

That Jesus Christ hath a providential influence upon all the affairs of this world, is evident, both from Scripture assertions, and rational observations, made upon the actings of things here below. But my business, in this discourse, is not to prove that there is a providence, which none but atheists deny. I shall choose rather to show by what acts Jesus Christ administers this kingdom, and in what manner; and what use may be made thereof. First, He rules and orders the kingdom of providence, as follows.

1. He supports the world and all creatures in it by His power.

2. He permits and suffers the worst of creatures in His dominions to be and act as they do.

3. He powerfully restrains creatures by the bridle of providence, from the commission of those things to which their hearts are propense enough.

4. Jesus Christ limits the creatures in their acting, assigning them their boundaries and lines of liberty; to which they may, but beyond it cannot go.

5. The Lord Jesus providentially protects His people amidst a world of enemies and dangers.

6. He punishes the evil doers, and repays by providence, into their own lap, the mischief they do, or but intend to do, unto them that fear Him.

7. And lastly, He rewards by providence the services done to Him and His people. Out of this treasure of providence God repays oftentimes those that serve Him, and that with a hundredfold reward now in this life (Matthew 19:29). This active, vigilant providence hath its eye upon all the wants, straits, and troubles of the creatures; but especially upon such as religion brings us unto. What huge volumes of experiences might the people of God write upon this subject! Secondly, We shall next inquire how Jesus Christ administers this providential kingdom. And here I must take notice of the means by which, and the manner in which He doth it. The means, or instruments He uses in the governing the providential kingdom (for He is not personally present with us Himself), are either angels or men; the angels are “ministering creatures sent forth by Him for the good of them that shall be the heirs of salvation” (Hebrews 1:14). Luther tells us they have two offices, to sing above, and watch beneath. These do us many invisible offices of love. They have dear and tender respects and love for the saints. To them, God, as it were, puts forth His children to nurse, and they are tenderly careful of them whilst they live, and bring them home in their arms to their Father when they die. And as angels, so men are the servants of providence; yea, bad men as well as good. Yea, there is not a creature in heaven, earth, or hell, but Jesus Christ can providentially use it, and serve His ends, and promote His designs by it.

But whatever the instrument be, Christ uses, of this we may be certain, that His providential working is holy, judicious, sovereign, profound, irresistible, harmonious, and to the saints peculiar.

1. It is holy. Though He permits, limits, orders, and overrules many unholy persons and actions, yet He still works like Himself, most holily and purely throughout.

2. Christ’s providential working is not only most pure and holy, but also most wise and judicious (Ezekiel 1:20), “The wheels are full of eyes.” They are not moved by a blind impetus, but in deep counsel and wisdom. The most wise providence looks beyond us. It eyes the end, and suits all things thereto, and not to our fond desires.

3. The providence of Christ is most supreme and sovereign.

4. Providence is profound and inscrutable. The judgments of Christ are “a great deep, and His footsteps are not known” (Psalms 36:6). There are hard texts in the works, as well as in the words of Christ. The wisest heads have been at a loss in interpreting some providences, (Jeremiah 12:1-2; Job 21:7). The angels had the hands of a man under their wings (Ezekiel 1:8), i.e., they wrought secretly and mysteriously.

5. Providence is irresistible in its design and motions; for all providences are but the fulfillings and accomplishments of God’s immutable decrees (Ephesians 1:11).

6. The providences of Christ are harmonious.

7. The providences of Christ work in a special and peculiar way, for the good of the saints.

Inferences:

1. See to whom you are beholden for your lives, liberties, comforts, and all that you enjoy in this world. Is it not Christ that orders all for you? He is, indeed, in heaven, out of your sight; but though you see Him not, He sees you, and takes care of all your concerns. When one told Silentiarius of a plot laid to take away his life, he answered, “Si Deus mei curam non habet, quid vivo?” “If God take no care of me, how do I live? how have I escaped hitherto?”

2. Hath God left the government of the whole world in the hands of Christ, and trusted Him over all? Then do you also leave all your particular concerns in the hands of Christ too, and know that the Infinite Wisdom and Love, which rules the world, manages everything that relates to you. It is in a good hand, and infinitely better than if it were in your own.

3. If Christ be Lord and King over the providential kingdom, and that for the good of His people, let none that are Christ’s henceforth stand in a slavish fear of creatures. It is a good note that Grotius hath upon my text; it is a marvellous consolation (saith he) that Christ hath so great an empire, and that He governs it for the good of His people, as a head consulting the good of the body. Our Head and Husband, is Lord general of all the hosts of heaven and earth; no creature can move hand or tongue without His leave or order; the power they have is given them from above (John 19:11-12). The serious consideration of this truth will make the feeblest spirit cease trembling, and set it a singing (Psalms 47:7), “The Lord is King of all the earth, sing ye praises with understanding”: that is, (as some well paraphrase it) every one that hath understanding of this comfortable truth.

4. If the government of the world be in the hands of Christ, then our engaging and entitling of Christ to all our affairs and business, is the true and ready way to their success and prosperity.

5. Lastly, eye Christ in all the events of providence; see His hand in all that befalls you, whether it be evil or good. “The works of the Lord are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein” (Psalms 111:2). (J. Flavel.)

Christ Head over all things to the Church

I. That the church is the object of preeminence in this world; its prosperity and completeness are the great purposes for which the world exists. The illustrious rank of this institution, the Church, may be judged of when you recollect that--

1. The Church is the realization of the highest Divine idea or thought respecting this world.

2. And then, another element in the Church’s magnificence, arises from the fact that the Church was brought into existence by the most remarkable and interesting means. There was a vast preparation for it, as if to direct the minds of all to this as a nobler work--a creation which stood higher than all the rest. The great design of the Church had existed in the eternal counsels of God, and then when it was to be completed, He sent his only Son into our world, who took upon Him our nature, bled, suffered, agonized, and died, that justice might be satisfied, and sinners return to God. He gave His life for those who were dead in trespasses and sins. Now, dear brethren, if you are to judge of the importance of an end by the means employed for its attainment, then what end can be so noble as this? Surely you must at once perceive that the Church takes a place of preeminence, which nothing can approach and nothing can rival. And then another fact which gives it so much interest is that--

3. It supplies a special manifestation of the Divine character and perfections. The unswerving rectitude of His government, the infinite purity of His character, the exhaustless fertility of His resources, the infinite wisdom of His mind, the exalted benevolence, the tender pity, the matchless mercy of Ills heart, are all illustrated. His moral attributes shine forth most conspicuously here. Still further, the Church’s preeminence consists in its being--

4. The source of the highest and purest blessing to the world. The Church is emphatically “the light of the world.” It is called “the salt of the earth.” It soars above everything else. It takes the highest position; and looking down in pity and love on all besides, seeks to raise them to a loftier elevation and to invest them with a holier character. It says to them, “Come and join us, and in joining us you will be rendered pure and happy for time, and blessed to all eternity.” This being the case, you cannot wonder at another feature in the Church’s elevation, and that is, that--

5. It is the object of special Divine love and complacency.

II. The subordination of all other things to the church. Christ is “Head over all things to the Church” evidently implying that these things are under the dominion of Christ for the good of the Church. Hence--

1. All things have been and still are working in aid of the Church.

2. The Church should use all things for its own progress and advantage. All inferior things are given for the use of man, and he is only required to employ them wisely and becomingly. So all things are intended to be subordinate to the service and welfare of the Church, and all that is demanded is, that the Church should use them in a prudent and Christian spirit.

III. The guarantee that is furnished for the attainment of this high end, in the universal supremacy of the Redeemer. He is Head over all things to the Church, and hence we need not doubt. For--

1. He has the ability and the authority to render all things subservient to the Church. When you remember what He has accomplished, you will feel that He is able also to accomplish this. Surely, you must conclude that “the government is upon His shoulders,” because He is “Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.”

2. His love to the Church will secure this result. For His love to the Church was no common affection.

3. That the Saviour’s position, as Head over all things to the Church, and its consequent elevation, are the reward of His mediatorial work. “Therefore God hath highly exalted Him, and gave Him a name above every other name.” And in the context it is implied that because of His work He is raised “far above all principality and power, and might and dominion”; all things are put under His feet, and He is appointed Head over all things to the Church. Then, be assured, He will secure His own triumph, and His own reward. The Church’s completeness will be His richest recompense. It was “for this joy that was set before Him, that He endured the cross and despised the shame”; and when He shall behold this, He will see of the travail of His soul, and be satisfied. As Christ, therefore, is Head over all things to His Church, all things shall work together for the Church’s good. (J. C. Harrison.)

Christ’s sovereignty

The brow once crowned with thorns now wears the diadem of universal sovereignty; and that arm, once nailed to the cross, now holds in it the sceptre of unlimited dominion. He who lay in the tomb has ascended the throne of unbounded empire. Jesus, the Brother-Man, is Lord of all: He has had all things put under His feet. This is the true apotheosis of humanity. (John Eadie, D. D.)

Christ’s Headship

Under His “over all” Headship, everything that happens benefits His people--discoveries in science, inventions in art, and revolutions in government--all that is prosperous and all that is adverse. The history of the Church is a proof extending through eighteen centuries; a proof so often tested, and by such opposite processes, as to gather irresistible strength with its age, a proof varied, ramified, prolonged, and unique, that the exalted Jesus is Head over all things to the Church. (John Eadie, D. D.)

The power of Christ

Sosomenes relates that when the Holy Family, in their flight into Egypt, reached the termination of their journey, and approached the city of Heliopolis, a tree which grew before the gates of the city, and was guarded with great veneration by the heathen citizens, as the seat of a god, bowed down its branches at the approach of the infant Christ. Likewise it is related (not in legends merely, but by grave religious authorities), that all the idols of the Egyptians fell with their faces to the earth. I have seen pictures of the flight into Egypt, in which broken idols lay by the wayside. (Mrs. Jameson.)

Triumphs of Christ

A little prior to the death of Julian the apostate, Sibanius Julianus, it is said, a teacher of paganism, tauntingly asked a Christian instructor, “What is the carpenter’s son doing?” “He is preparing a coffin for Julian,” replied the Christian. (Baxendale)
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Jesus above all

We have seen in mountain lands one majestic peak soaring above all the rest of the hills which cut the azure of the horizon with their noble outline burning with hues of richest gold in the light of the morning sun; and so should the doctrine of Christ incarnate, crucified, risen, and reigning, be preeminent above the whole chain of fact, doctrine, and sentiment which make up the sublime landscape--the magnificent panorama--which the Christian preacher (or teacher) unfolds, and makes to pass in clear form and brilliant colour before the eye of his people’s faith.

(Evangelical Magazine.)

Christ essential to Christians

So intimately connected are the head and the body, that one cannot exist without the other. In her freaks, no doubt, Nature does produce strange monsters, which, though deficient, some of this and some of that part, contrive to live; and it is marvellous to see what formidable lesions the body can suffer, of what valuable members it may be maimed, and yet survive. But the loss of the head is the loss of life. Death descends on the knife of the guillotine. A bullet whistles through the parting air, the lightning flashes, the sword of the headsman gleams in the sun, and--there is a corpse! before the eye has winked, the man is dead, stone dead. (T. Guthrie, D. D.)

Christ is the Head of the Church

“If,” says Augustine, “a man should come up to embrace thee, to kiss and honour thee upward, and beneath with a pair of shoes beaten full of nails, tread upon thy bare foot; the head shall despise the honour done unto it, and for the foot that smarteth, say, Why treadest thou upon me? So when feigned gospellers honour Christ our Head, sitting in heaven, and oppress His members on earth, the Head shall speak for the feet that smart, and say, Why treadest thou on Me?” Paul had a zeal toward God, but he did tread upon Christ’s feet on earth, for whom the Head crieth forth of heaven, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?” Although Christ sitteth on the right hand of His Father, yet lieth He on earth; He suffereth all calamities here on earth, He is many times evil entreated here on earth. (Bernard Gilpin.)

Christ the Head of the Church

1. The term “Head” frequently conveys the idea of supreme dignity and preeminence. In this sense it is properly applicable to Christ.

2. The “Head” is also frequently designed to express a state of supreme power and authority. In this sense of the term, Christ is the Head of the Church in opposition to all who sacrilegiously usurp the title.

3. The title “Head” is sometimes more literally used, as expressing the relation which that part of the body sustains to the members with which it is vitally connected. Strong and expressive as this figure may appear, Christ is, in this sense, as to all the purposes of spiritual life, the Head of His body, the Church. This idea deserves our particular attention.

I. It denotes the strict and intimate union that subsists between Christ and His people.

II. It conveys an idea of the comprehensive and infinite fulness of Christ.

III. It implies that the Lord Jesus Christ communicates or imparts from His fulness to every individual member of His mystical body.

IV. This relative character of Christ supposes the absolute need which He and His people have of each other, in order to the completeness of the body. (W. Roby.)

The Headship of Christ over believers

1. The closeness of Christ’s union with His members.

4. He communicates to us the whole life of grace and glory which we have.

(a) outwardly, by signifying His will;

(b) inwardly, by sending His Spirit.

2. Christ, whom God hath given to be Head over believers, is also Head over all creatures.

The Head of the Church

I. He hath placed all things under His feet. I believe it will be necessary to remark both the nature and the extensiveness of this dominion; for you will observe it is the effect of Divine appointment. “He,” that is, God the Father, “hath put all things under His feet,” therefore it is very different from that dominion which essentially belongs to His Divine nature. This He alway possessed; this, therefore, He could not obtain. “All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth”; “All things are delivered unto Me,” etc. The question is, How He obtained it? that is, whether He obtained it by an actor bounty, or by an act of grace, or by an act of recompense? The angels obtained their preeminence by pure bounty; the saints obtained their preeminence by pure grace; but the Saviour obtained His as a recompense. And as it was thus obtained, so you will observe with regard to its extent that it is universal, it is boundless. “He hath put all things under His feet.”

1. He hath put all beings under His feet. Angels, devils, men. Not a being in the universe but is either His servant or His slave.

2. And God hath put all things under His feet. The ordinances of nature; the heavenly bodies; the elements, etc. What a dignity does this attach to our Lord and Saviour! What an enemy must this render Him to those who are His adversaries!

II. God hath made Him to be the head over all things to His Church. His mediatorial power and dominion are peculiar, and principally for the sake of His own people. Let us explain. When God delivered Joseph from prison, He raised him also to a state of distinction; he was made governor, not of a mere village, or town, or province, but over all the land of Egypt, then the most renowned monarchy in the world; and without him, as the expression is, no man was to lift up his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt. But what was the end of this dispensation: Was it the mere aggrandisement of this youth? No; but the preservation, the welfare of one particular family, his own family; a family of little note in the world, living in obscurity, and now on the verge of famine, and yet a family of singular importance; a family attached to the worship of God, who were the depositories of His laws, heirs of the righteousness of faith, to whom pertained the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; whose are the fathers, and of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came. To Joseph they all repaired for support: he had all the stores at his disposal, and all the command of them. By him they were preserved and nourished; and that his exaltation was peculiarly and principally for their sakes, appears undeniable, in that as soon as he was removed by death they were in bondage, and enslaved and in the lowest state of degradation, for there arose another king which knew not Joseph. Thus was Joseph a striking representation of the Messiah who was to come, and who came to give His life a ransom for us; who came not only that His people might have life, but that they might have it more abundantly. What would have become of them but for His exaltation on their behalf? But, says He, “Because I live, ye shall live also.”

III. That this Church is His body. We shall observe four things; and--

1. The body has its progress as it passes from one state and condition to another; so it is with the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Church, the apostle says, grows in “the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.”

2. There is another article of resemblance. Though the body is of one substance, yet it has various parts, and all these have a mutual relation, not only to the head, but to each other. So in the Church there is the intellectual eye, the active hand, the speaking tongue, etc.; all equally useful and necessary in their respective places.

3. The body is united to the head. It is of the same flesh and blood and constitution as the head. So we are assured that Christians are joined to the Lord, and are of one spirit with Him.

4. The members depend upon the head, so does the Church rely entirely upon Christ. Take away the head, and what becomes of the members? The head is the watching part, the guiding part, the governing part, and all the members yield to it and obey it. There are the eyes placed to see; there are the ears placed to hear; the tongue to speak, and the palate to taste; there all the senses have their residence. All the parts of the body are influenced and governed by the head: down from the head to the feet, animal life descends and flows through the whole frame of man by means of nerves and ligatures. Thus Jesus is the life of the Church, and holds communion therewith.

IV. This body is His fulness. How is this? There are only two conceivable ways: either because the Church fills Him, or because He fills the Church. It is true in both senses. We are the recipients of this fulness; therefore so far it may be called our fulness. But then He is the author and the source of it; therefore it must be called His fulness. What are we in ourselves spiritually considered?

V. This fulness is the fulness of Him that filleth all in all, which is designed to show us His greatness and the infinite degree of His fulness: that it is not the fulness of a stream, if it be as wide as the Nile or the Ganges, but the fulness of a fountain, which supplies the streams; not the fulness of a lighted candle, which fills only one room with light, but the fulness of the sun, which enlightens the world, so that nothing is hid from the heat thereof. “He filleth all in all.” He fills the universe with worlds. How many can the eye see: how many more does the telescope enable us to behold? “He filleth all in all.” He fills heaven with His glory, the earth with His goodness, and hell with His wrath. He fills all the Scriptures of truth: all its types, all its prophecies, and all its promises He fills all ordinances; without Him they are as clouds without water, or as wells that are dried up. He fills all creatures. “The eyes of all wait upon Him, and He giveth them their meat in due season; He openeth His hand and satisfieth the desires of every living thing.” He fills all His subjects; philosophers with wisdom, mechanics with skill; and there is no creature in heaven or in earth that is not under His control. “The fulness of Him that filleth all in all.” He has filled His people in all ages of the world. He filled the patriarchs with faith; the prophets with capacity to foretell future events; the apostles with the Holy Ghost. He fills all common believers; He fills their understanding with knowledge; their consciences with peace; their wills with holy desires; their affections with love to holiness; their lives with all “the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ to the praise and glory of God.” (W. Jay.)

Christ the Lord of all

If a stream be a symbol of the multitude of the believers, Jesus is the fountain. If a tree be an image of the whole Church, Jesus is the root and the trunk. If a kingdom represent the disciples of this dispensation, Jesus is the prince. Or does the conjugal union in the person of the wife illustrate the relation of the Church to our Saviour? Then, as the husband is the head of the wife, so is Jesus the Head of the Church. Or, if the human body, in its parts, and as a whole, represent the Church and the Saviour, then Jesus is the Head of the body. We will briefly attempt to define the sovereignty of Jesus Christ as here declared, and then inquire into some of the circumstances which this headship involves--circumstances, the consideration of which may tend to produce confidence and repose of soul.

I. “And hath put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the Head over all things to the Church.” We must supply the antecedent, “The God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory.” “The Father hath put all,” “and gave Him.” “Gave,” here means, as you know, appointed, or constituted. The pronoun “Him” distinctly refers to Christ, “Christ” being the antecedent in the twentieth verse. And there can be no doubt as to the meaning of the word “Head”: it expresses the highest authority, and the supreme power. This explanation is confirmed by the words, “and hath put all under His feet.” Ancient conquerors sometimes trampled the vanquished Under the feet of their horses, and crushed them with their chariot wheels. Our Lord Jesus Christ, then, now reigns supreme. His mind devises, His will determines, His lips decree, and His power executes. Jesus does not now serve; He ordains and exacts service. He does not now obey; He commands. He does not now submit; He rules. And Jesus asserts and maintains His sovereignty in every sphere with special relation to His Church. And it may help further to develop this topic if we remark, still briefly, that Christ’s Headship in His humiliation is distinct from His Headship in His exaltation. In His humiliation He was the Head in the sense of substitution and representation. That Headship was, however, mere representation; the Headship of which our text speaks is dominion. The former was temporary; this is forever. That was for man only; this is over all. That was in humiliation and sorrow; this is in a state of exaltation and joy. That was the foundation; this the beautiful and sublime superstructure. We must also remark that Christ’s Headship to His Church is distinct from His Headship over all. The two are one in design, but they are distinct in character and manifestation. As the Head of the Church, Jesus dwells in the highest and best affections of those who compose the Church. He rules them by conviction, and by persuasion, and in love.

II. What does the headship of Jesus Christ involve? Universal government, then, is really in the hands of that Being whom you trust with yourself, and whom you trust as your Saviour. His authority is not nominal, but actual; and His power is not in word and in boast, but in deed and in truth. No hireling power supplants Him; no flattering sycophant blinds Him; no lawless opposition awes Him. And, brethren, the redemption of a countless multitude, glory for the redeemed, and honour to God, will be the result of Christ’s dominion. Not a slave among them; not a captive; not a prisoner; none widowed; none orphaned; none poor; not a sinner a sinner still; not sufferer a sufferer still; not a sinner nor a sufferer--no, not one! It was not always so. Time was when poverty, sickness, oppression, death, and evil of every kind, ran riot among the subjects of this very King; but the Head, Christ Jesus, shall then, from all these evils, have saved them; and having saved, glorified them. And God shall be glorified in them. As the maiden in the mirror sees what manner of person she is; and as the fisher in the clear lake beholds his full length image; so God in this glorified multitude shall see Himself--His power--His righteousness--His wisdom--His love--Himself. And in this glorified multitude, the angels, as in a crystal sea, shall behold their God. But, brethren, look at the process. The process is as remarkable as the consummation is glorious. The establishing of righteousness and blessedness among fallen men is an object of eternal purpose. The goings forth of the Head, Christ Jesus, are of old, from everlasting. The promise of this Headship relieved the expulsion from Eden of its dark and dense gloom. Abraham rejoiced to See the day of this King Jesus. As “the Angel of the covenant” He was with the Church in the wilderness, and with the Church upon Zion. From Adam’s fall until the incarnation of Jesus, the world was in a course of preparation for the founding of His empire. The world was allowed to grow weary under human dominion; and at the climax of its groaning this empire was born. The King Himself is a martyr King; and He passed through death to reach His throne. (S. Martin.)

The second Incarnation

A glowing prophecy of a second and yet more glorious Incarnation of Christ. There was a first coming, and there is to be a second coming, of the Saviour. He is supreme in heaven. He is also to be supreme on earth. Christ is to fill all with Himself--all governments; all laws; all policies under the government; all commercial and industrial organizations; all societies; all circles; all households; all individuals. All are to be filled with the mind, and will, and spirit of the Head; and Christ is to be the brain of the whole world. In other words, all physical economies and civil organizations, just as much as spiritual economies and religious organizations, are to be absolutely filled and dominated by Him. This is what I call the second Incarnation. It is the injection, as the first Incarnation was the lapse, as it were, into the human body, of the mind and will of Christ--the Divine Christ, subjecting Him to the law of matter, to its limitations and its infirmities, as we are controlled by the physical laws which surround us. So there is to be a more glorious Incarnation, by which the sum total of the globe itself, and all its members, are to be gloriously filled full of the mind, and feeling, and will, and disposition of Christ. As one little body bore about His spirit, so this greater body, the comprehensive race and the globe, is to bear about in it the mind and will of God; and everything is to move harmonious from pole to pole, and round and round the world. The whole world is to be as perfectly harmonious as the whole body is harmonious under the control of an intelligent, healthy, right minded man. This is poetry indeed, but it is the poetry of prophecy: It is the ideal of progress. It is that bright conception toward which, whether men know it or not, they are certainly drifting or steering. Will not that be the millennium? You may think it is fantasy. It is poetry now, but it will be fact yet. For there is to be a second great Incarnation; and as the Spirit Divine filled the body of Christ, and filled it full, so that great body which is the Church, which is the whole human race, is yet to be filled full of Him who filleth all things with all things. All the processes of society are to exhibit more of Christ; so that at last the day shall come when in all the earth, like a man without a pain from head to foot, mankind shall be without a sadness, or a sigh, or a sorrow; when the whole globe, in all its parts, shall be filled full of Him who filleth all things, who is the head and animating brain of the time and the world; and the globe, no longer singing a requiem, no longer singing of things gloomy and sad, clothed with light and inspired with joy, shall go chanting in its rounds, and the heaven and the earth shall sing together; and so the consolation shall come.

I. If this be so, then, first, dismiss the unworthy conceptions of Christ’s saving which have sprung from a judgment formed upon the inchoate and undeveloped state of things that has existed hitherto. Many men seem to think that the gospel is sent into this world as a life boat, to pick off from the foundering wreck as many of the great population as they possibly can, and let the rest go down. But Christianity is not a mere wrecker’s boat. In saving men, we ought to do it with the feeling that we are aiming toward the final consummation--the salvation of mankind. I believe the world will come to its final state as my tulips will come to blossom next spring. They are in the winter now, but they are in the bulb, and will come forth. And the world is coming to blossom yet. Not in my day, and not in your day, but ere long in ages to come. As it takes a great many years to bring an orchard into full fruitfulness, but as at last the trees come to maturity and begin to bear fruit, so by and by men will begin to be fruitful unto God, and the whole globe will be a great tree of the Lord, filled with Divine fruit on every side and on every branch.

II. This whole globe is my Lord’s; and when I speak about anything that concerns His kingdom, whether it be science, or art, or learning, or politics, or anything else, I am talking about my Father’s business. “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof.”

III. If these views be correct, then all those tendencies which now alarm and discourage Christian men, as, for instance, the insurrection of science against faith, have no real cause of fear in them. Now, as I have already said, the globe itself, that is, the realm of natural material laws, is to receive a second Incarnation of Christ. Science is now making the swaddling clothes of Christianity. If it takes from the world many ecclesiastical notions which men would not otherwise give up, very good. The world will be the wiser for it. If there be many superstitions which are supposed to be religion, but which are not religion, and they are taken away, very good. The world will be the better for it.

IV. If these views be correct, we shall not see the true glory of redemption here. We cannot imagine it. We shall not be in a condition to see it until we have passed from this mortal state. We are told that a man in the midst of a battle is the least able to describe the battle. The smoke and the noise, and the intensity of the conflict, prevent him from having a large view of the movements of the whole field. We are secluded. Each age is, as it were, but a note in the whole period of time. It cannot be that we rise so high, or stand at a period so late, that we see the whole disclosure. Then only shall we understand the nature of Christ, then only the comprehensive plan of His mercy, then only this second and greater Incarnation, by which He interjects the whole globe and its processes with His Spirit, when we reach the other world. Then and there only shall we be furnished with that vision by which we may see His grace, so that worthily we may worship Him, rejoicing that He is lifted above all kings, all princes, all principalities of every name. (H. W. Beecher.)

Christ and His Church

I. In what respects Christ is the Head of the Church.

1. For guidance.

2. For strengthening and establishing all the dependencies.

3. For reconciling the whole body to God.

4. For the spiritual government of the body.

II. The character of the Church.

III. In what sense the Church is the fulness of Christ.

1. The Church has the fulness of Christ’s love.

2. The Church possesses the fulness of Christ’s redemption. (J. F. Crossman, M. A.)

Christ the Head of the Church

Now in the Word of God the Church is compared to a variety of objects--to “a vine,” to “a building,” to “a temple,” and in our text to “a human person,” made up of two parts, the head and the body, the head representing Jesus, the body representing the collective members of the Church of Christ “And gave Him to be the Head over all things to the Church, which is His body.” Our subject presents us with several important ideas or principles.

I. The idea of importance. The head is everything to the body--it sees for the body, it hears for the body, it smells for the body, it tastes for the body, it masticates food for the body, it thinks for the body, it schemes, it purposes, in one word, it does everything for the body. So Jesus Christ is everything to the Church.

II. The idea of indispensableness. Lop off this limb and then that--amputate one of your members and then another, the limbless trunk of your body will still be alive; but let that body be beheaded, and it dies in a moment. So it is with the Church of Christ.

III. The idea of identity. The same fluid which courses through the body flows through the head, and the same food which is the nourishment of the body is the sustenance of the head. The component parts of the one are the component parts of the other. And just so it is between Christ and all believers. There is a sameness of nature. Christ and all Christians are alike in their desires, in their aims, in their pleasures, in their friendships, in their enmities, in their principles, in their motives, in their standard, in the one grand object ever before them--the glory of God.

IV. The idea of sympathy. If your foot be crushed the head will feel it; if any other member of the body, however distant from the head, be in pain, the head will feel it--and such is the sympathy between Christ and all His suffering people. Am I speaking to any who are heavy hearted and cast down? What is the cause of your sorrow? Is it the shading of your prospects? Is it the presence of disease in some beloved member of your family? Is it that you are going down the hill of adversity, and because your pride is being humbled at every step? Is it because you have just received some deep wounds from a quarter whence you least expected them? Or, is your grief some secret silent sorrow which your tongue refuses to divulge? It matters not what may be the sorrows, there is sympathy in the living head for the sorrows of all the suffering members of “the mystical body.” And oh, fellow Christians, what a sympathy is the sympathy of Christ! It is a sympathy which knows all our griefs, and all the particulars and details of all our sorrows. It is a sympathy which supports us under all our griefs, nay, it is a sympathy which makes use of those sorrows as a means of fetching us back from our wanderings; nay, more, which will make all our sorrows to “work out for us a far more exceeding and as eternal weight of glory.”

V. The idea of glory. The glory of the head is always reflected upon the members of the body. Now just consider what the glory of Christ is (John 1:1). Oh, what an honour to belong to the body of such a Head! Then consider the works of Christ--“All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made.” What an honour to be a member of the body of such a Creator! Then consider the possessions of Christ. With mortal lips and with human tongue He said it--“All things that the Father hath are Mine.” Oh, the honour of being a member of the body of such a possessor! Then look at His immensity; our text speaks of it as “the fulness of Him who filleth all in all.” Oh, the honour of being a member of that body! That man can well afford to part with dust and ashes who is in possession of gems, and precious stones, and priceless rubies; nay, who can call kingdoms; nay, who can call the world; nay, who can call Jesus his own! That man can afford to trample under his feet all the pleasures of his fellow creatures, who can say, “My beloved is mine, and I am His.”

VI. The idea of the resurrection of the body. For where lies the head, there will lie the body; and where reigns the head, there will reign the body too. As our Head, even Jesus, once lay in the sepulchre, so shall we His followers lie there too; and as Jesus our Head is now reigning in glory, so shall we reign in glory too. (Alfred Pope.)

The Headship of Christ

I. The text affirms the supreme political power and authority of Immanuel. Just as in Israel there was established a Theocracy, the Almighty claiming to be recognized as the Head of their civil and ecclesiastical polity, and just as all judges and rulers were expected to recognize their power as delegated to them from above; and just as the Divine right and title were not subverted nor destroyed when rulers and people sank into sin and idolatry; so now on earth there is established a larger civil and ecclesiastical government, of which Jesus is the Head, and of which the Theocracy was the symbol; and all rulers and all subjects are required to acknowledge their lawful Lord who sits upon the holy hill of Zion, the stability of whose government and the legitimacy of whose claims upon all are no more affected by the godlessness of the nations and the impiety of their rulers than were the claims of the Shepherd of Israel set aside by the wanderings of His flock, or the usurpations of her hirelings.

II. The power of Christ as King of Nations is subordinated to His purposes as King of saints. He is Head over all things to the Church, or for the Church--for her peace, her prosperity and perpetuity; so that He is now described as putting His honour on His people, even as the head puts honour on the body. Jesus is the Head of His new creation. But more particularly we remark--

1. He is Head over all things, that He may bring together the materials, and build them up into a Church unto Himself. He is the head cornerstone, living’, tried and precious, upon which there must be reared a blemishless, indestructible fabric, composed of living stones selected from the quarry of humanity, polished and prepared by the Spirit of all grace, and cemented together by the binding of undying love.

2. Christ is Head over all things for the beautifying of His Church; that is, He exerciseth His power over all things so as to promote and advance the beauty of His Church. The beauty of a Church is her purity in doctrine and her holiness in practice, her strict unbending conformity to the law and the order of her exalted Head; and the administration of her wise and her gracious Ruler is all ordered and arranged, so that at length she may be presented in the heavens a glorious Church, without spot and blemish or any such thing. In order to this she is tried with the storm and strengthened with the sunshine; the fire and the flood are brought to bear upon her goodly fabric, so as to purge out all that is polluted and profane, and hasten on the perfection of her coming state.

3. Jesus is Head over all things in order that He may perfect His body the Church. Of all those who are given unto Him, of them He can lose none. Time, with its thousand vicissitudes, must roll along whilst there remaineth one, whose name is written above, alive or unacquainted with the grace that is in Christ. Its plans and its purposes shall have existence until the completion of Christ’s body the Church; its discoveries in science and improvements in arts; its advances in civilization; its augmentations in commercial zeal; its treaties and its friendships; are all the secondary causes in His hand for finishing His plans, and for making one with Himself all His covenant children. (J. Macnaughton, M. A.)

The Headship of the God-Man

I. Let us meditate, first, upon the important statement, that “God hath put all things under Christ’s feet, and made Him Head over all things.”

II. But the text tells us--and this is the second point--that it was for the sake of the Church that God put all things under Christ’s feet--that He was made Head over all things. Although exalted at God’s right hand, angels and principalities and powers being made subject to Him, He has not abandoned the designs which He entertained, or lost the feelings which He cherished, towards men, while He tabernacled with them upon earth. His exaltation has produced no change of feeling towards His former associates, as it too often occurs among the weak and depraved children of men. He has carried up with Him to the right hand of His Father and the throne of the Universe the same feelings of love and compassion towards His people His whole conduct upon earth so strongly expressed. Even now He entertains those very feelings which once prompted Him to leave the glory He had with His Father before the world began--to lead upon earth a life of poverty and ignominy and shame--and at last to endure the cruel and ignominious death of the cross. We may be assured, then, that He will not leave unfinished a work which He has already done, and suffered so much to effect, but that He will bring to bear upon its accomplishment all the power and authority with which He has been invested. Conclusion: Thus extensive and thus absolute is the power with which Christ has been invested, and which He is continually exercising, and this power is at all times directed to bear on the interests of the Church--to promote the conversion, the sanctification, and the everlasting redemption of all those whom the Father gave Him. In the scheme of Divine Providence, the establishment of general laws, and the arrangement of the most important transactions, does not prevent an equally careful attention to, and an equally certain provision for, the most minute. Christ does indeed direct and overrule for the good of His Church the councils of monarchs, and the conflicts of armies, and the fortunes of nations, but amid all these great events He does not neglect the least circumstance in the life and history of any of His chosen people--of any individual member of His body. While He is opening up channels for the extension of His Church and the spread of His gospel, by overthrowing dynasties, or by destroying systems of wide and commanding influence--He is at the same time providing the food with which the most obscure of His people is fed, and the raiment with which he is clothed. Christ’s kingdom not being of this world, the good of individuals, or the good of the whole, or of the many, can never come into collision, as is sometimes the case in matters which have a reference to this world’s business and this world’s interests. Everything connected with the sanctification and final happiness of each individual believer is as carefully attended to, and as effectually provided for, as if Christ had been made Head over all things for his sake alone. (W. Cunningham, D.D.)


Verse 23

Ephesians 1:23

Which is His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all.

Believers are the body of Christ

1. As Christ is the Head of believers, so they are His body, and every believing soul a member of this body whereof He is the Head. Believers are so said to be the body as the body stands in opposition to the head, not as it includes the head within its own compass. The multitude of believers are fitly so called; for, as in a body are divers members, having their several faculties for the good use of the whole, so in the Church there are divers kinds of members, some taught, some teaching, some governing, some governed, some distributing,--yea, every member has, as it were, his distinct grace whereby he may serve the well-being of the whole.

2. Christ does not count Himself full and complete, without all His faithful members.

3. Whatever is in us as Christians, all of it is from Christ. In Him we are complete, filled with all heavenly gifts which serve to remove evil or set us in a state of blessedness.

Christ’s body

I. Who the persons here spoken of are: “The Church.” The Greek word ἐκκλησία simply means “the called out.” This is a title often given to the disciples of Christ. They “are called to be saints.” They are “called unto His kingdom and glory.” God “hath saved them, and called them with a holy calling.” The persons, then, who constitute the Church are those who have been “called out.”

II. We are now in a position to consider with profit what the connection is which subsists between Christ and His Church. “The Church is His body”; the fulness of Him who filleth all in all.” “The Church is His body”; then He is its Head: the Church is “His fulness,” and “He filleth all in all.” Let us consider these weighty words.

1. The Lord Jesus Christ is the Head of His Church. Like the head in our natural body, He is the channel of all their perceptions, the source of all their desires, the guide of all their actions. Through Him they see and hear and think, by Him they live and move and have their being. As our text says, “He filleth all in all”--every member with all its life.

2. The reality and intimacy of this union will be more fully realized if we observe, not only what the Lord Jesus Christ is to His disciples, but also what they are to Him. Paul tells us not only that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church, but also that “the Church is His body”--not only that Christ “filleth all in all,” but also that “the Church is His fulness.”

III. Let us now consider the inward blessings and the outward duties that are implied in this connection.

1. The inward spiritual blessings which are implied in the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church which is His body. These blessings, as we have seen, flow only to those who really are His disciples. Are we true members of the body of Christ? Then let us realize that we have suffered and died with Him on Calvary. Again, are we true members of the body of the Lord Jesus Christ? Then we are delivered, not only from the punishment due to past, sins, but also from the power of present sinfulness. Again, are we true members of the body of Christ? then let us remember that we are related, not only to Him, but also to one another as members of the same body. Again, are we true members of the body of Christ? then we need not fear anything that man can do unto us. We cannot suffer but Jesus suffers with us. He is “afflicted in all our afflictions.” He would lose in our loss. He rejoices in our joy. Once more, are we true members of the body of Christ? then our comfort reaches not only to the grave, but beyond it.

2. Of the duties which they owe to Him as the Head of government. Obedience--implicit obedience--is the duty of each member of His body individually--obedience in all things. I pass on to speak of the duty of the members of His body in their collective capacity--when associated together as churches. The Lord Jesus Christ is the Head, not merely of each member of His body separately, but of “the, whole body.” He has commanded His disciples to recognize each other, and to, associate themselves together for common work and for common worship. He has given rules for the government of His Church. All these and such like commandments are addressed to the Church in its collective capacity. (W. Grant.)

The connection between Christ and the Church

Head and body are correlative, and are organically connected. The body is no dull lump of clay, no loose coherence of hostile particles; but bone, nerve, and vessel give it distinctive form, proportion, and adaptation. The Church is not a fortuitous collection of believing spirits, but a society, shaped, prepared, and life endowed, to correspond to its Head. The Head is one, and though the corporeal members are many, yet all is marked out and “curiously wrought” with symmetry and grace to serve the one design. There is organization, and not merely juxtaposition.

1. There is, first, a connection of life: if the head be dissevered, the body dies. The life of the Church springs from its union to Christ by the Spirit, and if any member or community be separated from Christ it dies.

2. There is also a connection of mind: the purposes of the Head are wrought out by the corporeal organs--the tongue that speaks, or the foot that moves. The Church should have no purpose but Christ’s glory, and no work but the performance of His commands.

3. There is, at the same time, a connection of power: the organs have no faculty of self-motion, but move as they are directed by the governing principle within. The corpse lies stiff and motionless. Energy to do good, to move forward in spiritual contest and victory, and to exhibit aggressive influence against evil, is all derived from union with Christ.

4. There is, in fine, a connection of sympathy. The pain or disorder of the smallest nerve or fibre vibrates to the head, and there it is felt. Jesus has not only cognizance of us, but He has a fellow feeling with us in all our infirmities and trials. And the members of the body are at the same time reciprocally connected, and placed in living affinity, so that mutual sympathy, unity of action, cooperation and support, are anticipated and provided for. No organ is superfluous, and none can defy or challenge its fellow. (John Eadie, D. D.)

Christ’s fulness

Observe, there is an all to be filled, and an all and in all wherewith’ to be filled. Poor trembling believer in Jesus Christ, thou art a portion of the fulness of Him “in whom all fulness dwelleth,” a member of Him “that filleth all in all,” and the Lord hath need of thee. There is a special adaptation in His fulness for thy special need, for all His fulness must be displayed and communicated to His members. “The head cannot say to the foot, I have no need of you.” An infinite variety of needs in the members is essentially necessary in order to manifest the boundless supply in the fulness of the Head, that He may be glorified, even as the branches of the vine are necessary as its only channels for the display of its wealth of fruitfulness: It shall one day be fully manifested to heaven and earth, to angels and to men, that Christ’s people stand in Him alone, and that they have no resources or supplies whatever but in His fulness. Come then, bring empty vessels not a few, here are gilts laid up for all sorts, and no denial for any kind of sinner, in order that His fulness may be seen, and that each believer may be in his own case a living monument to show forth the perfections and praises of Him in whom all fulness dwelleth. One shall receive and display His fulness of strength who is evermore “a strength to the needy in his distress.” Another shall be an example of His patience; another, of His care; another, of His long-suffering; another, of His tenderness; another, of His power; another, of His guiding mercy and gentleness; and all, of His changeless love. There are gifts and graces inexhaustible, and boundless operations and treasures of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge for the filling, and all sorts of needy ones to be filled--all of them, all the parts of them, body, soul, and spirit; all the powers, faculties, and immortality of all of them, for He “filleth all in all,” that He may be glorified. Verily the consolations of God are contained in these facts. Consider a few of the consequences resulting from them:

1. If Christ’s believing people are His body and His fulness, then none of them shall be wanting when He shall come to be admired in His saints. If otherwise?--no fulness.

2. If Christ’s believing people are His body and His fulness, then not one of them shall be lacking in any matters essential for their perfection. If otherwise?--no fulness.

3. If Christ’s believing people are His body and His fulness, then no member shall be out of place, and no desire unsatisfied. If otherwise?--no fulness.

4. If Christ’s people are His body and His fulness, then no grace, or continuance of grace, laid up for us in Him, shall be unsupplied. If otherwise?--no fulness.

5. If Christ’s people are His body and His fulness, then shall there be no want of salvation, security, growth, attainment, station, proportion, or symmetry in any of them. If otherwise?--no fulness.

6. If we are His body and His fulness, all of us are absolutely necessary for the completeness of our glorious Christ Himself, and even the very hairs of our head must all be numbered. If otherwise?--no fulness.

7. If we are His body, then must His members be presented faultless, holy, unblameable, and unreprovable, and without spot or wrinkle. If otherwise?--no fulness.

8. Finally, if any member be absent or incomplete, misplaced, undeveloped, or deficient, either overgrown, or undergrown, or wanting in proportion, then would there be no fulness. (M. Rainsford, B. A.)

Christ’s fulness

The word pleroma, “fulness,” is used in a definite and almost technical sense in the Epistles of the Captivity, and especially in the Epistle to the Colossians, having clear reference to the speculations as to the Divine Nature and the emanations from it, already anticipating the future Gnosticism. The word itself is derived from a verb signifying, first, to “fill”; next (more frequently in the New Testament), to “fulfil” or complete. It is found

Communion with Christ

What! is Christ thy Brother, and does He live in thine house, and yet thou hast not spoken to Him for a month? I fear there is little love between thee and thy Brother, for thou hast had no conversation with Him for so long. What! is Christ the Husband of His Church, and has she had no fellowship with Him for all this time? (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The Church is Christ’s body

Christ has but one Church. The second Adam, like the first, is the husband only of one wife. Just as the Church cannot have two heads, so the one Head cannot have two bodies; for as that body were a monster which had two heads, so the head which had two separate bodies. (F. Guthrie, D. D.)

The Head and the body

At a celebrated battle there was one position from which the enemy, after suffering defeat in every other part of the field, kept up an unabated fire. There, a huge twenty-four pounder vomited forth galling and continuous discharges; nor could our artillery, nor musketry, nor riflemen, silence it. “That gun,” said the commanding officer, addressing the men of two regiments, “must be taken by the bayonet. I must have it”; adding, as he placed himself at their head, “No firing, and recollect that I am with you.” There needed no more. They advanced; and in a short time they had taken the gun and the position. Let the Church go forth at the command of her glorious Head, and there is no position and weapon of the enemy but shall yield before their united assaults. (F. Guthrie, D. D.)

The freshness and fulness of Christ

In the square of the Doge’s palace are two wells, from which the sellers of water obtain their stock-in-trade, but we can hardly compare either of them with the overflowing spring from which the preacher of righteousness draws his supplies. One of the wells is filled artificially and is “not much used for drinking, since the coldness and freshness of water springing naturally from earth’s deep fountains is lacking. It is to be feared that many preachers depend for their matter upon theological systems, books, and mere learning, and hence their teaching is devoid of the living power and refreshing influence which is found in communion with “the spring of all our joys.” The other well yields most delicious water, but its flow is scanty. In the morning it is full, but a crowd of eager persons drain it to the bottom, and during the day as it rises by driblets, every drop is contended for and borne away, long before there is enough below to fill a bucket. In its excellence, continuance, and naturalness, this well might be a fair picture of the grace of our Lord Jesus, but it fails to set Him forth from its poverty of supply. He has a redundance, an overflow, an infinite fulness, and there is no possibility of His being exhausted by the draughts made upon Him, even though ten thousand times ten thousand should come with a thirst as deep as the abyss. We could not help saying, “Spring up, O well,” as we looked over the margin covered with copper, into which strings and ropes--continually used by the waiting many--had worn deep channels. Very little of the coveted liquid was brought up each time, but the people were patient, and their tin vessels went up and down as fast as there was a cupful to be had. O that men were half as diligent in securing the precious gifts of the Spirit, which are priceless beyond compare. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The witnessing Church

The Church is called the body of Christ. Through his body a man holds communication with the outer world and works in and on that outer world. So through His Church Jesus the Christ acts upon society, upon men in general. I do not say that this is She only medium through which He works and acts, but it is the principal medium. A Church, then, must be organically fitted to express the mind and will of Christ. In inquiring as to the nature of the Church of Christ, the following ideas demand recognition:

1. Jesus Christ is its Head; its sole Head, its source of doctrine, of law and of order. He only has authority. “One is your Master even Christ, and all ye are brethren.” Of course in every society there must be a head, even a mob must have a leader. There must in every society be law and order. Otherwise there can be no peace and no progress. The self-will of the individual becomes everything. And in such a state of things there can be no cooperated movement. The sole headship of Christ in the Church is the basis doctrine of all law and order.

2. The membership of the Church is a brotherhood. If we have the ability of the subordination of our own wills to the will of Christ, the practical result will be, that we shall be of the same feeling and disposition as all others dowered with the same ability. The spirit of brotherhood will be in us. For when anything of the love of God enters the heart, the love of man comes with it. And the love of man is not some sentimental feeling which is here today and gone tomorrow. It is the diametric opposite of the spirit of judgment and accusation. It is necessary to add further that the Church of Christ is not democratic, but theocratic. The people are not the fountain of law and order. This also must be added, that the Church is the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit of God, which fact is evidence by these fruits of the Spirit which hang thick and threefold upon it, as upon a tree of life. We must not omit to add, that the Church is Christ’s great Teacher to the nations. The last great command to the apostles runs thus: “Go ye and male disciples of all the nations, baptizing,” etc. And lastly, the Church is the beginning of that permanent society which God is organizing to embody and express His will. The Book of the Revelation of St. John gives intimations of a perfected society into which there enters nothing that defileth, neither that which believeth or maketh a lie, a society of the pure and true, or rather of those who are purified and made true, men from all ages and all nations, all kindreds and all tongues, a society of men like in sympathy and disposition though various in many other ways. The Christ of God is the centre of that society; its inspiration; its archetype; a society based on inward character not on anything else, the inward character being attested by outward allegiance to this Christ of God. In that society we shall get the perfection of communion, the ideal fellowship, all lovelessness gone, no envy there, no hatred, nothing that leads to schism, no insincere man there, no unbrotherly man, the society of which the Church on earth has been, in its best estate, only the promise and prefiguration. (Reuen Thomas.)

In what respects the Church is Christ’s fulness

1. The Church is Christ’s fulness, because it has grown out of Christ, and He has increased outwards so as to form the Church. He has developed into it. He has ‘expanded into it; as a seed grows into a tree with its branches. First, Christ fills the Church and each true believer with His Spirit, and Christ thus lives, by His Spirit, in each and all. The Spirit and Christ are one. Another view, secondly, is that presented in the words, “out of His fulness have we all received, and grace for grace.” Faith is the instrument of receiving out of His fulness, or, the medium of communication. The Christian by faith receives a corresponding grace to every grace that was in Christ. And he is at length filled, according to his measure or capacity, out of Christ. But, thirdly, Christ imparts to the Church and to each believer all spiritual blessedness.

2. Let us now consider the idea of the Apostle in its other aspect. We have seen how the Church is the fulness of Christ, in the sense of its being the development, as it were, of the root, by which it grows up into a full body, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. The other side of the idea is embodied in the thought that the Church fills up, completes, and perfects Christ. We must still contemplate Christ and His Church as one. He, in condescension, has taken it to be part of Himself, and, in this view, without it, He would be incomplete. So Paul in one place calls the Church “Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:12). The body is Christ according to this passage. It forms part of Him, and completes Him. We are thus led to consider all true Christians as necessary parts of what Christ Himself has chosen for His own body; and the whole Church of the redeemed, when gathered together, will, together with the Head, make one Christ. (W. Alves, M. A.)
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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Ephesians 1:4". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/ephesians-1.html. 1905-1909. New York.


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Thursday, November 23rd, 2017
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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