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Nave's Topical Bible - Intercession; Jesus, the Christ; Love; Mysteries; Paradox; Righteous; Sanctification; Wisdom; Thompson Chain Reference - Deeper Life, the; Deterioration-Development; Emptiness-Fulness; Enlargement; Fulness; Indwelling Christ; Larger Life; Life; Love; Love-Hatred; Paradoxes; Progress, Spiritual; Spiritual; Temple, Spiritual; The Topic Concordance - Love; Understanding; Torrey's Topical Textbook - Love of Christ, the; Prayer, Intercessory;
Verse 19. To know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge — It is only by the love of Christ that we can know the love of God: the love of God to man induced him to give Christ for his redemption; Christ's love to man induced him to give his life's blood for his salvation. The gift of Christ to man is the measure of God's love; the death of Christ for man is the measure of Christ's love. God so loved the world, c. Christ loved us, and gave himself for us.
But how can the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, be known? Many have laboured to reconcile this seeming contradiction. If we take the verb γνωναι in a sense in which it is frequently used in the New Testament, to approve, acknowledge, or acknowledge with approbation, and γνωσις to signify comprehension, then the difficulty will be partly removed: "That ye may acknowledge, approve, and publicly acknowledge, that love of God which surpasseth knowledge." We can acknowledge and approve of that which surpasses our comprehension. We cannot comprehend GOD yet we can know that he is; approve of, love, adore, and serve him. In like manner, though we cannot comprehend, the immensity of the love of Christ, yet we know that he has loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood; and we approve of, and acknowledge, him as our only Lord and Saviour. In this sense we may be said to know the love of Christ that passeth knowledge.
But it is more likely that the word γνωσις, which we translate knowledge, signifies here science in general, and particularly that science of which the rabbins boasted, and that in which the Greeks greatly exulted. The former professed to have the key of knowledge; the secret of all Divine mysteries; the latter considered their philosophers, and their systems of philosophy, superior to every thing that had ever been known among men, and reputed on this account all other nations as barbarians. When the apostle prays that they may know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, he may refer to all the boasted knowledge of the Jewish doctors, and to all the greatly extolled science of the Greek philosophers. To know the love of Christ, infinitely surpasseth all other science. This gives a clear and satisfactory sense.
That ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. — Among all the great sayings in this prayer, this is the greatest. To be FILLED with God is a great thing; to be filled with the FULNESS of God is still greater; but to be filled with ALL the fulness of God, παν το πληρωμα του θεου, utterly bewilders the sense and confounds the understanding.
Most people, in quoting these words, endeavour to correct or explain the apostle, by adding the word communicable; but this is as idle as it is useless and impertinent. The apostle means what he says, and would be understood in his own meaning. By the fulness of God, we are to understand all those gifts and graces which he has promised to bestow on man, and which he dispenses to the Church. To be filled with all the fulness of God, is to have the whole soul filled with meekness, gentleness, goodness, love, justice, holiness, mercy, and truth. And as what God fills, neither sin nor Satan can fill; consequently, it implies that the soul shall be emptied of sin, that sin shall neither have dominion over it, nor a being in it. It is impossible for us to understand these words in a lower sense than this. But how much more they imply, (for more they do imply,) I cannot tell. As there is no end to the merits of Christ, no bounds to the mercy and love of God, no limits to the improvability of the human soul, so there can be no bounds set to the saving influence which God will dispense to the heart of every believer. We may ask, and we shall receive, and our joy shall be full.
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:19". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/ephesians-3.html. 1832.
God’s wisdom and love displayed (3:1-21)
It was because Paul had taken the gospel to the Gentiles that he was imprisoned in the first place (Acts 21:27-36). Yet he feels humbled to think that God should graciously choose him for such a noble work (3:1-2). As a Jew he was once proud of his belief that only Jews were God’s people. Even if some of the ‘far off’ Gentiles believed in God, they were still not God’s covenant people in the sense that Jews were. Now God’s special revelation shows Paul clearly that no longer is this so. Jewish and Gentile believers are united in one body, the church, and as God’s people they share equally in all God’s blessings (3-6).
Paul believes that only by God’s grace could one as unworthy as he be given the work of taking the gospel to the Gentiles. He believes also that only by God’s power will he be fruitful in that work (7-8). God’s plan of uniting all believers in one church in and through Christ displays to people and to angels his great wisdom (9-11). This encourages Christians in their everyday lives, for if God is so wise and powerful, they know that they can enter into his presence at all times without fear or doubt. They therefore should not be discouraged, as some in Ephesus were when they heard that their apostle was in prison (12-13).
The one to whom Paul prays is the Father of all who believe, whether Jews or Gentiles. This one is the true Father. Everything in the universe has its origin in him. Even earthly fathers and their families exist only because there is a heavenly Father and his family (14-15).
Paul asks this heavenly Father that those who are his children might be strengthened inwardly through allowing the Spirit of Christ within them to control them. As they understand more of Christ’s love, they will grow to be more like him in their lives (16-19). They should not think that this goal is too high to reach, for God is able to do far more than they think possible (20-21).
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Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:19". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bbc/ephesians-3.html. 2005.
And to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that ye may be filled with all the fullness of God.
"The love of Christ" being made here the object of the verb "know" indicates quite clearly that "the love of Christ" is not primarily the thing under consideration in the previous verse, despite the fact of the vast majority of scholars taking exactly that position. As Blaikie said:
When "the love of Christ" is made the subject of a separate part of the prayer, and is not in the genitive, but in the objective case, governed by a verb of its own, this explanation is not to be entertained.
That ye may be filled with all the fullness of God ... This is the grand climax of a prayer which reaches the most exalted heights. Paul here prayed for the Christians to whom he wrote that they might be filled with "all the fullness of God." No wonder this has been called the boldest prayer ever prayed. Dummelow was doubtless correct in interpreting this to mean: "That ye may be filled up to all the fullness of God, to the perfection of the divine attributes (Matthew 5:48). See discussion of "Perfection of Christians" under Ephesians 1:4.
 W. G. Blaikie, op. cit., p. 108.
 J. R. Dummelow, op. cit., p. 963.
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:19". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/ephesians-3.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
And to know the love of Christ - The love of Christ toward us; the immensity of redeeming love. It is not merely the love which he showed for the Gentiles in calling them into his kingdom, which is here referred to; it is the love which is shown for the lost world in giving himself to die. This love is often referred to in the New Testament, and is declared to surpass all other which has ever been evinced; see the Romans 5:7-8, notes; John 15:13, note. To know this; to feel this; to have a lively sense of it, is one of the highest privileges of the Christian. Nothing will so much excite gratitude in our hearts; nothing will prompt us so much to a life of self-denial; nothing will make us so benevolent and so dead to the world; see the notes on 2 Corinthians 5:14.
Which passeth knowledge - There “seems” to be a slight contradiction here in expressing a wish to know what cannot be known, or in a desire that they should understand that which cannot be understood. But it is the language of a man whose heart was full to overflowing. He had a deep sense of the love of Christ, and he expressed a wish that they should understand it. Suddenly he has such an apprehension of it, that he says it is indeed infinite. No one can attain to a full view of it. It had no limit. It was unlike anything which had ever been evinced before. It was love which led the Son of God to become incarnate; to leave the heavens: to be a man of sorrows; to be reviled and persecured; to be put to death in the most shameful manner - on a cross. Who could understand that? Where else had there been anything like that? What was there with which to compare it? What was there by which it could be illustrated? And how could it be fully understood Yet “something” of it might be seen, known, felt; and the apostle desired that as far as possible they should understand that great love which the Lord Jesus had manifested for a dying world.
That ye might be filled with all the fulness of God - What an expression! How rich and glorious Who can comprehend all that it implies? Let us inquire into its meaning. There “may” be here in these verses an allusion to the “temple.” The apostle had spoken of their being founded in love, and of surveying the length, and breadth, and depth, and height of that love, as of a vast and splendid edifice, and he now desires that those whom he addressed might be pervaded or filled with the indwelling of God. The language here is cumulative, and is full of meaning and richness.
(1) They were to be “full of God.” That is, he would dwell in them.
(2) They were to be filled with “the fulness of God” - τὸ πλήρωμα τοῦ Θεοῦ to plērōma tou Theou. On the word rendered “fulness,” see on Ephesians 1:10, note, 23, note. It is a favorite word with Paul. Thus, he speaks of the “fulness” of the Gentiles, Romans 11:25; the “fulness” of time, Galatians 4:4; the fulness of him that filleth all in all, Ephesians 1:23; the “fulness” of Christ, Ephesians 4:13; the “fulness” of the Godhead in Christ, Colossians 1:19; Colossians 2:9. It means here, “that you may have the richest measures of divine consolation and of the divine presence; that you may partake of the entire enjoyment of God in the most ample measure in which he bestows his favors on his people.”
(3) It was to be with “all” the fulness of God; not with partial and stinted measures of his gracious presence, but with “all” which he ever bestows. Religion is not a name. It is not a matter of form. It is not a trifle. It is the richest, best gift of God to man. It ennobles our nature. It more clearly teaches us our true dignity than all the profound discoveries which people can make in science; for none of them will ever fill us with the fulness of God. Religion is spiritual, elevating, pure, Godlike. We dwell with God; walk with God; live with God; commune with God; are like God. We become partakers of the divine nature 2 Peter 1:4; in rank we are associated with angels; in happiness and purity we are associated with God!
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:19". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/ephesians-3.html. 1870.
19. And to know the love of Christ. By those dimensions Paul means nothing else than the love of Christ, of which he speaks afterwards. The meaning is, that he who knows it fully and perfectly is in every respect a wise man. As if he had said, “In whatever direction men may look, they will find nothing in the doctrine of salvation that does not bear some relation to this subject.” The love of Christ contains within itself the whole of wisdom, so that the words may run thus: that ye may be able to comprehend the love of Christ, which is the length and breadth, and depth, and height, that is, the complete perfection of all wisdom. The metaphor is borrowed from mathematicians, taking the parts as expressive of the whole. Almost all men are infected with the disease of desiring to obtain useless knowledge. It is of great importance that we should be told what is necessary for us to know, and what the Lord desires us to contemplate, above and below, on the right hand and on the left, before and behind. The love of Christ is held out to us as the subject which ought to occupy our daily and nightly meditations, and in which we ought to be wholly plunged. He who is in possession of this alone has enough. Beyond it there is nothing solid, nothing useful, — nothing, in short, that is proper or sound. Though you survey the heaven and earth and sea, you will never go beyond this without overstepping the lawful boundary of wisdom.
Which surpasseth knowledge. A similar expression occurs in another Epistle:“
the peace of God, which surpasseth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)
No man can approach to God without being raised above himself and above the world. On this ground the sophists refuse to admit that we can know with certainty that we enjoy the grace of God; for they measure faith by the perception of the bodily senses. But Paul justly contends that this wisdom exceeds all knowledge; for, if the faculties of man could reach it, the prayer of Paul that God would bestow it must have been unnecessary. Let us remember, therefore, that the certainty of faith is knowledge, but is acquired by the teaching of the Holy Spirit, not by the acuteness of our own intellect. If the reader desire a more full discussion of this subject, he may consult the “Institutes of the Christian Religion.”
That ye may be filled. Paul now expresses in one word what he meant by the various dimensions. He who has Christ has everything necessary for being made perfect in God; for this is the meaning of the phrase, the fullness of God. Men do certainly imagine that they have entire completeness in themselves, but it is only when their pride is swelled with empty trifles. It is a foolish and wicked dream, that by the fullness of God is meant the full Godhead, as if men were raised to an equality with God.
Calvin, John. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:19". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/ephesians-3.html. 1840-57.
Let's turn to the third chapter of Ephesians.
For this cause [Paul said] I, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles ( Ephesians 3:1 ),
It is interesting that Paul was actually a prisoner of Rome, but as far as he was concerned, he was a prisoner of Jesus Christ, that is the one he was really bound to. "A prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles." The reason why Paul was persecuted and the reason why Paul was in prison is because he was insisting that the Gentiles could be saved by their believing in Jesus Christ, and this upset the Jews, who felt that the Gentiles could only be saved by becoming Jews.
Thus, a Gentile could not be saved, only Jews could be saved and a Gentile had to become a Jew in order to be saved. So Paul's insistence that God is now offering salvation to the Gentiles so incurred the wrath of the Jews that they persecuted him or stirred up persecution everywhere he went. So that the imprisonments were the result of this basic teaching of Paul that you Gentiles can have salvation. So, "a prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles."
Paul said, "If I didn't preach this then the persecution would cease. They wouldn't have anything against me anymore." But Paul stood by that message of God's grace that had been given to him.
If you have heard [he said] of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given to me for you ( Ephesians 3:2 ):
Now, there are those who see seven dispensations. They see the dispensation of innocence, when God placed Adam in the Garden of Eden and God relating to man there in the garden in man's innocence. Then they see the second dispensation, (I forget what they call it), but it is from the time of Adam's sin unto the time of Noah, in which they see the third dispensation of the government of God which lasted until the time of the law, which they see the fourth dispensation of the law. And the fifth dispensation of Jesus here; the sixth dispensation, the dispensation of grace; the seventh dispensation, the millennial reign.
Paul is talking about the dispensation of grace, man has divided it up into those categories. I don't know that God has. I think that man does a lot of things that God doesn't necessarily endorse, even theologians.
We are living in an age in which God relates to we Gentiles by His grace. It is a dispensation of grace given to us.
How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I already had written about in few words ( Ephesians 3:3 );
Now, in chapter 1 Paul speaks of this mystery of His will, that in the dispensation of the fullness of time He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on the earth, even in Him. This mystery that God has chosen that all things should be bound up in Jesus Christ; things which are in heaven, things which are on the earth. God has brought all things in subjection unto Him, will put all things in subjection.
Paul said, I wrote a little bit about this mystery already,
Whereby, when you read, you may have an understanding of my knowledge in the mystery of Christ,) which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit ( Ephesians 3:4-5 );
That is, this open door for the Gentiles to receive salvation is something that the Old Testament prophets did not foresee. This age of the church is something that was not seen by the Old Testament prophets. They felt that the coming of Christ would bring the immediate kingdom of God. They figured that the Messiah would usher in the kingdom age immediately and the Old Testament prophets did not really see this age of grace, when God would be drawing from among the Gentiles the body of Christ.
They really didn't understand all that they saw or all that God revealed to them. They really wrote of things that they did not completely understand. But they wrote as the Holy Spirit inspired them. And thus, they themselves did not know the things that they were writing about or what their full significance was.
Isaiah speaks of the coming Messiah, how that He will sit upon the throne of David and order it and establish it in righteousness and in judgment from henceforth even forever, the zeal of the Lord of Host shall perform this. And yet, Isaiah said that God's righteous servant would be despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief, and we hid as it were our faces from Him. But He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities. The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and with His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to our own way, and God laid on Him the iniquity of us all. And how He would be numbered with the transgressors in His death. And so he wrote of these things not really understanding the apparent inconsistency of the things that he wrote.
Daniel, in prophesying the day that the Messiah would come, declared, and the Messiah will be cut off, and receive nothing for Himself, and the Jews will be dispersed.
Yet, there did remain that mental attitude that the Messiah is going to set up His kingdom, and it was very prevalent even among the disciples. They were constantly looking for the immediacy of the kingdom of God. When Jesus, after His resurrection, gave the promise of the Holy Spirit to come upon them in a few days, they said, "Lord, will this be the time when You restore the kingdom to Israel? Is this it, Lord?" They were constantly looking for the kingdom to be established immediately. They did not know that there was going to be this period of the dispensation of grace, where God would be reaching out to the Gentiles to draw out from the Gentiles the body of Christ, the church of Jesus Christ. Draw out, actually, from the world, because it was to include both Jews and Gentiles and make them one. The wall that had existed between them is going to be broken down and they are all going to become one body in Christ.
When Paul speaks of it as a mystery, he means not something that is like we think of mysteries today, difficult to solve. It is something that had not been revealed in the past, but God is now revealing and making known. So it is a new revelation from God. This place of the Gentiles in the body of Christ and how that God was going to offer freely unto the Gentiles the glorious promises of eternal life and of salvation and of a place in the kingdom of God.
Paul said, "I want to write this to you so that you will understand my understanding of the mystery which in other ages was not made known, but it is know revealed by the Holy Spirit to the apostles and to the prophets. This is the mystery:"
That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ by the gospel ( Ephesians 3:6 ):
The glorious mystery of God now revealed. You Gentiles can have salvation, can have the promise of eternal life, can have the hope of the kingdom of God. You become a partaker in the grace and in the goodness of God. "Whereof [Paul said] I was made a minister, according the gift of the grace of God that was given to me by the effectual working of his power."
So God laid upon me the ministry of sharing this glorious mystery--God's grace to the Gentiles.
Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ ( Ephesians 3:7-8 );
"What a privilege," Paul said, "is given unto me the less of the least of all saints." Paul's opinion of himself, this is the opinion of a man who has truly been called of God and really had a confirmation with Jesus Christ.
When I see the way some people strut as they preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, my conclusion is that they really haven't had a personal confrontation with Him. If I have the attitude, "Lord, You are so lucky that You have me proclaiming Your truths. You don't know how fortunate You are, God. I could have been famous and I could have been great. I gave up fame and fortune. I am worth a lot to You, Lord." Those testimonies of what people have given up for Jesus Christ really don't move me. What I could have been doesn't really touch me.
Paul's attitude toward himself, "Wow, God has given me this glorious ministry, the lessor than the least of all of the saints. The privilege given that I should be able to share the unsearchable riches of Christ, impart them unto the Gentiles."
Paul felt that because of his previous persecution of the church, his endeavor to waste it, that anything that God did for him was through grace and he was really always, I think, sort of haunted by the fact that he was so blind at one time that he was trying to destroy the church. He makes mention of this, "for I wasted the church of God." Here his attitude, less than the least of all of the saints. But God has chosen
that all men may see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world has been hidden in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ ( Ephesians 3:9 ):
Now, you notice that all that God has done for us is by Jesus Christ as we have been going through these first two chapters on into the third chapter. Anything and everything that God has done for you He has done in and through and by Jesus Christ. These glorious mysteries hid from the Old Testament prophets now revealed through the prophets and the apostles in the New Testament, these marvelous riches of Christ that are available to all men.
To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God ( Ephesians 3:10 ),
You remember Peter writing of these things said, "Which things the angels even desire to look into." ( 1 Peter 1:12 ). You see, angels are not omniscient as is God. They do not know the full purposes or the plan of God. I am sure that they have interesting sessions and discussions as they see the purposes of God being unfolded. Now, the angels did have a better grasp of prophecy than did man. When God would reveal the things through the prophets, they did have a grasp of these things. But not a full understanding. It took the working out of the plan for them to come into a full understanding.
Peter in writing of these things said, "We have the more sure word of prophecy" ( 2 Peter 1:19 ). "He showed Himself alive by many infallible proofs" ( Acts 1:3 ), but we have the more sure word of prophecy and so forth, which things the angels desired to look into. Paul said, "That the principalities and powers, which are the angels, that they might know by what is happening in the church, the manifold wisdom of God."
I would imagine that it is a very shocking and awesome thing to the angels that God decided to come and indwell man. That God would actually come and dwell within man. This is that glorious mystery that God actually will indwell you by His Spirit through Jesus Christ.
My body can become the temple of the Holy Spirit, that Christ dwelling in me is my hope of glory. This marvelous mystery. The angels said, "Wow, can you believe that?" It is revealed, God didn't reveal it to them, except, as it took place within the church.
According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord ( Ephesians 3:11 ):
That was God's plan from the beginning.
In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him ( Ephesians 3:12 ).
In chapter 1 it says we have been accepted in the beloved. God accepts me. Now it says we have access unto God. That was, of course, something that was withheld even from the Jew. They did not have access to God. They came to God through the priest. He would enter into the presence of God for them. When God gave the law to Moses, He said, "Cordon off the mount. Don't let man come close, lest he be destroyed." Moses went up and communed with God. When the people saw the awesome phenomena of the presence of God, they fled, and they said to Moses, "You go up and talk to Him and you come down and tell us what He said, but we don't want to get near. That is awesome the fire rolling around the ground, the thunder and all of these things. And you go up and we will listen to you, and we will take what you tell us that God says, but we don't want to approach that."
And as God established the law, then it was the high priest who went into the Holy of Holies before God for the people and that was only once in a year, one day in a year. But now we have access to God. There is no veil any longer to hold you out.
It was extremely significant that at the crucifixion of Jesus the veil was rent or torn from top to the bottom and God was just now saying through Jesus Christ you can all come. You have access to God. In Hebrews it says, "that we may come boldly before the throne of grace to make our petitions known." Through Jesus Christ we were once alienated from God and could not approach Him, and now have been brought close, been brought nigh, access to God. And then here again, boldness and access, as in Hebrews, "come boldly to the throne of grace."
That timidity that some people display, "Oh, I really don't think that I am worthy to come to God. I will just go to one of the saints and ask him to go to God for me," is unscriptural and it's wrong. When God opens the door and says, "Come on in," it is wrong for you to hold back. We come boldly. We have access, boldness and access, confidence by the faith of Him.
Wherefore [Paul said] I desire that you faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory ( Ephesians 3:13 ).
Paul had gone through so much to bring them this message. The prisoner, beaten, scourged, buffeted, stoned. "Don't faint at my tribulations, because it is all for your glory."
For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ ( Ephesians 3:14 ),
So Paul's prayer for them, the attitude in prayer, physical, of bowing his knee, but there are many attitudes for prayer physically. It isn't really the physical position that counts when I come to God; it is the position of my heart. "He that comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those that diligently seek Him" ( Hebrews 11:6 ).
So the people who have a hang up, "you're not really praying unless you are on your knees," is not really a scriptural hang up, it is just their own hang up. The scripture talks about standing, lifting holy hands in prayer. David lying with his face in the dirt crying unto God. Many places they are lying prostrate before the Lord. So sitting, lying, kneeling, standing, that is not what counts, but what is the position of your heart as you come to God.
"I bow my knees unto the Father." Prayer is unto the Father, our Father, which art in heaven. Whatsoever things you ask the Father, that will I do that the Father may be glorified in the Son. The Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that he would grant you [Paul's prayer for them], according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man ( Ephesians 3:15-16 );
How we need strength in our inner man. Satan is constantly setting before us temptations. He is a powerful foe. I do not have the strength within myself to stand against him, I need God's strength by His Spirit in my inner man if I am to stand before the power of the enemy. Paul prays that you might be strengthened in the inner man by His Spirit.
That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith ( Ephesians 3:17 );
The word dwell in the Greek is to settle down and to make himself at home, that Christ might really be at home, be comfortable, be at ease. There are places where you go and you feel out of place the moment you are there. You feel uncomfortable, you wish you had not come, you are not in harmony with what is going on. Then there are other places where you go and you feel so comfortable, so at ease, so relaxed.
Now, "that Christ might be at home in your hearts" means that your heart might be so in tune and all with Him that as He dwells within your heart there is no strain, there is no embarrassment for Him.
You remember how that Ezekiel, that interesting prophet, how God dealt with him in many strange ways, was taken by the Spirit to Jerusalem. There was this wall there and God said, "Dig a hole through the wall," and he dug a hole through the wall and crawled in. And he looked and here was all kinds of pornography all over the walls. Ezekiel said, "That is horrible, filthy pornography. What's that all about?" God said, "I have allowed you to go within the minds of the leaders of Israel. These are the things that they are thinking, these are the things they are seeing."
When Christ dwells within your heart and looks on the walls, is He at home, is He comfortable with what He sees? Or when He knocks on the door, do we say, "Wait a minute," and we go around and try to cover everything, or turn things around backwards?
"That Christ may be at home in your hearts by faith;"
that you might be rooted and grounded in love ( Ephesians 3:17 ),
Oh that we would experience more of that love of God and the love of Jesus Christ and that it might really flow forth from our lives. Rooted and grounded in love.
That you may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and the length, and the depth, and the height; and to know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge ( Ephesians 3:18-19 ),
Here is an interesting request, because how can you know something that passes knowledge? The word know is ginosko, which is know by experience.
Now his prayer: "God loves you so much, I pray that you might know the depths of Gods love for you, the length of God's love, the height of God's love. If you could only fathom the depths, if you could only explore the heights, if you could only see the length, to the length to which God was willing to go to save you. The depths to which Jesus was willing to come in order to redeem you. The heights to which God intends to bring you. That He might seat you together with Christ in heavenly places and make you a joint heir with Christ of His eternal kingdom. Oh the heights of the glory that God has for you. If you could only know," Paul said, "comprehend that which is beyond knowledge. Hey, you cannot know it, it is beyond knowledge."
The next request,
that you might be filled with the fullness of God ( Ephesians 3:19 ).
Now, again, that is something that in the physical is impossible. That I could be filled with the fullness of God. The heavens of heavens cannot contain God. How much less me? That I might be filled with the fullness of God. Now, realizing that he has asked some pretty tough things, he says,
Now unto him who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think ( Ephesians 3:20 ),
How many times I think that we limit God by our own limitations. We carry our own limitations over into the spiritual realm. We are prone to place things in categories: that is very easy, that is simple, no problem, oh that is pretty tough, that one is difficult. Hey, that is impossible. We are prone to carry these over to God, and it reflects even many times in our attitude of prayer, "Lord, this is a simple thing. You can handle this one. Lord, this is pretty tough. I really don't know. Forget it, Lord. It is impossible." We are prone to carry over unto God those human feelings that we have concerning situations. How many times God has done things that I thought were totally impossible, things that I had given up on. People that I had said, "Hey, no way." Then what does God do? Turns around and saves them. I can't believe it.
Jonathan, waking up early in the morning, his mind playing with an interesting thought. "I wonder if God wants to deliver the Philistines to Israel today. If God wants to deliver the Philistines to Israel today, He doesn't need a whole army. If God wants to do it, He could deliver them into the hands of one man just as easy as He could the whole army. I wonder if He wants to deliver them today?" This crazy thought running through his brain, he can't get it out of his head. And so he wakes up his armor bearer and he says, "I'm having a crazy thought. You know, I was thinking, if God wants to deliver the Philistines to Israel He doesn't need the whole army, after all He is God. He could deliver the Philistines to Israel to just one man, just as easily as a whole army. Let's go over and see if God wants to deliver the Philistines this morning." I love it, let's see what God might want to do, let's venture out in faith. Who knows what God might want to do? He doesn't need a whole army. We measure things by our abilities. "Now unto Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think."
We oftentimes are intimidated by certain diseases, by certain illnesses, because they have been diagnosed by man as incurable. Thus, we have a different prayer for Leukemia than we do earaches, or headaches. "Lord, he has got a headache, relieve him, Lord, help him to really be able to function today. Thank you, Lord." No problem. If God doesn't come through, take an aspirin.
"Leukemia, No! Oh, God, help! God, oh Lord God of heaven." Man leukemia, you have got to really pray for that. You have . . . it takes really getting worked up into that one. That's tough. Hey, it is no more difficult for God to heal leukemia than it is a common cold. God doesn't have these categories of difficult or easy or impossible. They don't exist with God. He is able to do exceedingly abundantly, and we need to remember this when we pray. We need in prayer to be freed from our human limitations and this idea of difficulty.
"Now unto Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think." God can provide a million dollars for you just as easy as He can provide five cents. He is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that you ask or think. Why do we limit Him? "Lord, I need a nickel." So I start looking around the ground. It shouldn't be too hard to find a nickel. Flip the coin boxes in the telephones.
Paul as he prays, prays with that awareness, that confidence that God is able. We need to have that confidence when we pray.
Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end ( Ephesians 3:21 ).
This beautiful little benediction that he tacks onto his prayer. Glory in the church, by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end, and so shall it be. So shall it be.
World without end, we will bring glory and praise unto God because of His grace towards us through Jesus Christ. In heaven we will be much the same things we are doing on the earth, as we are just giving thanks unto God for His mercy and grace to us, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
So many people are looking for heaven to bring so many radical changes in their lives. But you see, God wants to make those radical changes right now so that heaven will not be a shocking kind of a transition for you. God is working in us now. Those eternal things as He is preparing us for the eternal kingdom. They are not going to be as radical a change as you think. God wants it to be a smooth transition. It would be glorious to be in heaven for an hour or two before you realized you were there. To walk so close to the Lord, to live in such communion with Him, to walk so in His presence and in His love and all. Hey, wait a minute. Something is different here. Where am I? Wow!
Oh, God help us to so walk with Jesus in close communion. "
Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:19". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/csc/ephesians-3.html. 2014.
3. Future comprehension 3:14-19
Paul had explained that Jews and Gentiles are one in Christ (Ephesians 2:15). Therefore he prayed that they might experience the unity that was theirs spiritually in their relations with one another. He turned from exposition to intercession (cf. ch. 1; John 13-17). Ephesians 3:14-19 are also one sentence in the Greek text.
"In the first prayer [Ephesians 1:15-23], the emphasis is on enlightenment; but in this prayer, the emphasis is on enablement. It is not so much a matter of knowing as being-laying our hands on what God has for us and by faith making it a vital part of our lives." [Note: Wiersbe, 2:30-31.]
"Whereas the first prayer centers in knowledge, this prayer has its focal point in love." [Note: Martin, p. 1309.]
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:19". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/ephesians-3.html. 2012.
Paul desired that his readers would apprehend the love of Christ fully. Yet he acknowledged that full comprehension of that love is impossible because it is greater than mortals can conceive.
"The four words seem intended to indicate, not so much the thoroughness of the comprehension as the vastness of the thing to be comprehended." [Note: Abbott, p. 99.]
"No matter how much we know of the love of Christ, there is always more to know." [Note: Morris, p. 107.]
The ultimate goal of Paul’s request was that his readers might be so full of the knowledge of Christ’s love and appreciation for God that they might allow Christ to control them fully (Ephesians 4:13).
"These four requests are more like four parts to a telescope. One request leads into the next one, and so on." [Note: Wiersbe, 2:31.]
"I like to think of the apostle’s petition as a staircase by which he climbs higher and higher in his aspiration for his readers. His prayer-staircase has four steps, whose key words are ’strength’, ’love’, ’knowledge’ and ’fullness’." [Note: Stott, p. 134.]
"There are really five petitions in this greatest of all Paul’s prayers (one already in Ephesians 1:16-23), two by the infinitives after hina doi ["that he would grant you," Ephesians 3:16] (krataiothenai ["to be strengthened," Ephesians 3:16], katoikesai ["that Christ may dwell," Ephesians 3:17]), two infinitives after hina exischusete ["that you . . . may be able," Ephesians 3:17-18] (katalabesthai ["to comprehend," Ephesians 3:18], gnonai ["to know," Ephesians 3:19]), and the last clause hina plerothete ["that you may be filled up," Ephesians 3:19]. Nowhere does Paul sound such depths of spiritual emotion or rise to such heights of spiritual passion as here." [Note: Robertson, 4:532.]
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:19". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/ephesians-3.html. 2012.
PRISON AND PRIVILEGES ( Ephesians 3:1-13 )
To understand the connection of thought in this passage it has to be noted that Ephesians 3:2-13 are one long parenthesis. The for this cause of Ephesians 3:14 takes up again and resumes the for this cause of Ephesians 3:1. Someone has spoken of Paul's habit of "going off at a word." A single word or idea can send his thoughts off at a tangent. When he speaks of himself as "the prisoner of Christ," it makes him think of the universal love of God and of his part in bringing that love to the Gentiles. In Ephesians 3:2-13 his thoughts go off on that track; and in Ephesians 3:14 he comes back to what he meant to say when he began.
It is for this cause that I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for
the sake of you Gentiles--you must have heard of the share that
God gave me in dispensing his grace to you, because God's secret
was made known to me by direct revelation, as I have just been
writing to you, and you can read again what I have just written,
if you wish to know what I understand of the meaning of that
secret which Christ brought, a secret which was not revealed to
the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed
to his consecrated apostles and prophets by the work of the
Spirit. The secret is that the Gentiles are fellow-heirs,
fellow-members of the same body, fellow-sharers in the promise
in Jesus Christ, through the good news of which I was made a
servant through the free gift of the grace of God, which was
given to me according to the working of his power. It is to me,
who am less than the least of all God's consecrated people, that
this privilege has been given the privilege of preaching to the
Gentiles the wealth of Christ, the full story of which no man can
ever tell, the privileges of enlightening all men as to what is
the meaning of that secret, which was hidden from all eternity,
in the God who created all things. It was kept secret up till
now in order that now the many-coloured wisdom of God should be
made known through the Church to the rulers and powers in the
heavenly places: and all this happened and will happen in
accordance with the eternal design which he purposed in Jesus
Christ, through whom we have a free and confident right of
approach to him through faith in him. I therefore pray that you
will not lose heart because of my afflictions on your behalf. For
these afflictions are your glory.
The Great Discovery ( Ephesians 3:1-7)
3:1-7 It is for this cause that I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for the sake of you Gentiles you must have heard of the share that God gave me in dispensing his grace to you, because God's secret was made known to me by direct revelation. as I have just been writing to you, and you can read again what I have just written, if you wish to know what I understand of the meaning of that secret which Christ brought, a secret which was not revealed to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his consecrated apostles and prophets by the work of the Spirit. The secret is that the Gentiles are fellow-heirs, fellow-members of the same body, fellow-sharers in the promise in Jesus Christ, through the good news of which I was made a servant through the free gift of the grace of God, which was given to me according to the working of his power.
When Paul wrote this letter he was in prison in Rome awaiting trial before Nero, waiting for the Jewish prosecutors to come with their bleak faces and their envenomed hatred and their malicious charges. In prison Paul had certain privileges, for he was allowed to stay in a house which he himself had rented and his friends were allowed access to him; but night and day he was still a prisoner chained to the wrist of the Roman soldier who was his guard and whose duty it was to see that Paul would never escape.
In these circumstances Paul calls himself "the prisoner of Christ." Here is another vivid instance of the fact that the Christian has always a double life and a double address. Any ordinary person would have said that Paul was the prisoner of the Roman government; and so he was. But Paul never thought of himself as the prisoner of Rome; he always thought of himself as the prisoner of Christ.
One's point of view makes all the difference in the world. There is a famous story of the days when Sir Christopher Wren was building St. Paul's Cathedral. On one occasion he was making a tour of the work in progress. He came upon a man at work and asked him: "What are you doing?" The man said: "I am cutting this stone to a certain size and shape." He came to a second man and asked him what he was doing. The man said: "I am earning so much money at my work." He came to a third man at work and asked him what he was doing. The man paused for a moment, straightened himself and answered: "I am helping Sir Christopher Wren build St. Paul's Cathedral."
If a man is in prison for some great cause he may either grumblingly regard himself as an ill-used creature, or he may radiantly regard himself as the standard-bearer of some great cause. The one regards his prison as a penance; the other regards it as a privilege. When we are undergoing hardship, unpopularity, material loss for the sake of Christian principles we may either regard ourselves as the victims of men or as the champions of Christ. Paul is our example; he regarded himself, not as the prisoner of Nero, but as the prisoner of Christ.
In this section Paul returns to the thought which is at the very heart of this letter. Into his life had come the revelation of the great secret of God. That secret was that the love and mercy and grace of God were meant not for the Jews alone but for all mankind. When Paul had met Christ on the Damascus road there had come to him a sudden flash of revelation. It was to the Gentiles that God had sent him "to open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and a place among who are sanctified by faith in me" ( Acts 26:18).
This was a completely new discovery. The basic sin of the ancient world was contempt. The Jews despised the Gentiles as worthless in the sight of God. At worst they existed only to be annihilated, "The nation and kingdom that will not serve you shall perish; those nations shall be utterly laid waste" ( Isaiah 60:12). At best they existed to be the slaves of Israel; "The wealth of Egypt and the merchandise of Ethiopia and the Sabeans, men of stature, shall come over to you and be yours; they shall come after thee; in chains they shall come over and they shall fall down unto thee" ( Isaiah 45:14).
To minds which could think like that it was incredible that the grace and the glory of God were for the Gentiles. The Greek despised the barbarians--and to the Greek all other nations were barbarians. As Celsus said when he was attacking the Christians, "the barbarians may have some gift for discovering truth, but it takes a Greek to understand."
This racial contempt did not end with the ancient world. In the sixteenth century Complaynt o Scotland, it is written: "Euere nation reputis vthers nations to be barbarianes, quhen there twa natours and complexions ar contrar till vtheris." In the Mercantile Marine Magazine of 1858 there is a recommendation to the effect that the term barbarian should not be applied to British subjects in Chinese official documents. (These two illustrations are taken from The Stranger at the Gate, by T. J. Haarhoff.)
But in the ancient world the barriers were complete. No one had ever dreamed that God's privileges were for all people. It was Paul who made that discovery. That is why he is so tremendously important--for, had there been no Paul it is conceivable that there would have been no world-wide Christianity and that we would not be Christians today.
The Self-consciousness Of Paul ( Ephesians 3:1-7 Continued)
When Paul thought of this secret which had been revealed to him, he thought of himself in certain ways.
(i) He regarded himself as the recipient of a new revelation. Paul never thought of himself as having discovered the universal love of God; he thought of God having revealed it to him. There is a sense in which truth and beauty are always given by God.
It is told that once Sir. Arthur Sullivan was at a performance of H.M.S. Pinafore. When that lovely duet "Ah! Leave me not to pine alone" had been sung, Sullivan turned to the friend sitting beside him and said, "Did I really write that?"
One of the great examples of poetical music of words is Coleridge's Kubla Khan. Coleridge fell asleep reading a book in which were the words: "Here Kubla Khan commanded a place to be built and a stately garden thereunto." He dreamed the poem and when he awoke he had nothing to do but write it down.
When a scientist makes a great discovery, over and over again what happens is that he thinks and thinks, and experiments and experiments; and comes to a dead end. Then quite suddenly the solution to his problem flashes upon him. It is given to him--by God.
Paul would never have claimed to be the first man to discover the universality of the love of God; he would have said that God told him the secret which had not been previously revealed to any man.
(ii) He regarded himself as the transmitter of grace. When Paul meets the leaders of the Church to talk over with them his mission to the Gentiles, he talks about the gospel of the uncircumcision being committed to him and of "the grace that was given to me" ( Galatians 2:7; Galatians 2:9): When he writes to the Romans, he speaks of "the grace given me by God" ( Romans 15:15). Paul saw his task as that of being a channel of God's grace to men. It is one of the great facts of the Christian life that we have been given the precious things of Christianity in order to share them with others. It is one of the great warnings of the Christian life that if we keep them to ourselves we lose them.
(iii) He regarded himself as having the dignity of service. Paul says that he was made a servant by the free gift of the grace of God. He did not think of his service as a wearisome duty but as a radiant privilege. It is often astonishingly difficult to persuade people to serve the Church. To teach for God, to sing for God, to administer affairs for God, to speak for God, to visit those in poverty and distress for God, to give of our time and our talent and our substance for God, should not be counted a duty to be coerced out of us; it is a privilege which we should be glad to accept.
(iv) Paul regarded himself as a sufferer for Christ. He did not expect the way of service to be easy; he did not expect the way of loyalty to be trouble-free. Unamuno, the great Spanish mystic, used to say, "May God deny you peace, and give you glory." F. R. Maltby used to say that Jesus promised his disciples three things--that "they would be absurdly happy, completely fearless, and in constant trouble." When the knights of chivalry came to the court of King Arthur and to the society of the Round Table, they came asking for dangers to face and dragons to conquer. To suffer for Christ is not a penalty; it is our glory, for it is to share in the sufferings of Christ himself and an opportunity to demonstrate the reality of our loyalty to him.
The Privilege Which Makes A Man Humble ( Ephesians 3:8-13)
3:8-13 It is to me, who am less than the least of all God's consecrated people. that this privilege has been given the privilege of preaching to the Gentiles the wealth of Christ, the full story of which no man can ever tell; the privilege of enlightening all men as to what is the meaning of that secret, which was hidden from all eternity, in the God who created all things. it was kept secret up till now in order that now the many-coloured wisdom of God should be made known through the Church to the rulers and powers in the heavenly places; and all this happened and will happen in accordance with the eternal design which he purposed in Jesus Christ, through whom we have a free and confident approach to him through faith in him. I therefore pray that you will not lose heart because of my afflictions on your behalf. for these afflictions are your glory.
Paul saw himself as a man who had been given a double privilege. He had been given the privilege of discovering the secret that it was God's will that all men should be gathered into his love. And he had been given the privilege of making this secret known to the Church and of being the instrument by which God's grace went out to the Gentiles. But that consciousness of privilege did not make Paul proud; it made him intensely humble. He was amazed that this great privilege had been given to him who, as he saw it, was less than the least of God's people.
If ever we are privileged to preach or to teach the message of the love of God or to do anything for Jesus Christ, we must always remember that our greatness lies not in ourselves but in our task and in our message. Toscanini was one of the greatest orchestral conductors in the world. Once when he was talking to an orchestra when he was preparing to play one of Beethoven's symphonies with them he said: "Gentlemen, I am nothing; you are nothing; Beethoven is everything." He knew well that his duty was not to draw attention to himself or to his orchestra but to obliterate himself and his orchestra and let Beethoven flow through.
Leslie Weatherhead tells of a talk he had with a public schoolboy who had decided to enter the ministry of the Church. He asked him when he had come to his decision, and the lad said he had been moved to make it after a certain service in the school chapel. Weatherhead very naturally asked who the preacher had been, and the lad answered that he had no idea; he only knew that Jesus Christ had spoken to him that morning. That was true preaching.
The tragic fact is that there are so many who are more concerned with their own prestige than with the prestige of Jesus Christ; and who are more concerned that they should be noticed than that Christ should be seen.
The Plan And The Wisdom Of God ( Ephesians 3:8-13 Continued)
There are still other things in this passage which we must note.
(i) Paul reminds us that the ingathering of all men was part of the eternal purpose of God. That is something which we would do well to remember. Sometimes the history of Christianity can be presented in such a way that it sounds as if the gospel went out to the Gentiles only because the Jews would not receive it. Paul here reminds us that the salvation of the Gentiles is not an afterthought of God; the bringing of all men into his love was part of God's eternal design.
(ii) Paul uses a great word to describe the grace of God. He calls it polupoikilos ( G4182) , which means many-coloured. The idea in this word is that the grace of God will match with any situation which life may bring to us. There is nothing of light or of dark, of sunshine or of shadow, for which it is not triumphantly adequate.
(iii) Again Paul returns to one of his favourite thoughts. In Jesus we have a free approach to God. It sometimes happens that a friend of ours knows some very distinguished person. We ourselves would never have any right to enter into that person's presence; but in our friend's company we have the right of entry. That is what Jesus does for us with God. In his presence there is an open door to God's presence.
(iv) Paul finishes with a prayer that his friends may not be discouraged by his imprisonment. Perhaps they might think that the preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles will be greatly hindered because the champion of the Gentiles is in prison. Paul reminds them that the afflictions through which he is going are for their good.
PAUL'S EARNEST PRAYER ( Ephesians 3:14-21 )
3:14-21 It is for this cause that I bow my knees in prayer before the Father, of whose fatherhood all heavenly and earthly fatherhood is a copy, that, according to the wealth of his glory. he may grant to you to be strengthened in the inner man, so that Christ through faith may take up his permanent residence in your hearts. I pray that you may have your root and your foundation in love, so that, with all God's consecrated people, you may have the strength fully to grasp the meaning of the breadth and length and depth and height of Christ's love, and to know the love of Christ which is beyond all knowledge, that you may be filled until you reach the fullness of God himself.
To him that is able to do exceeding abundantly, above all that we ask or think, according to the power which works in us, to him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus to all generations for ever and ever. Amen.
The God Who Is Father ( Ephesians 3:14-17)
3:14-17 It is for this cause that I bow my knees in prayer before the Father, of whose fatherhood all heavenly and earthly fatherhood is a copy, that, according to the wealth of his glory, he may grant to you to be strengthened in the inner man. so that Christ through faith may take up his permanent residence in your hearts.
It is here that Paul begins again the sentence which he began in Ephesians 3:1 and from which he was deflected. It is for this cause begins Paul. What is the cause which makes him pray? We are back again at the basic idea of the letter. Paul has painted his great picture of the Church. This world is a disintegrated chaos; there is division everywhere, between nation and nation, between man and man, within a man's inner life. It is God's design that all the discordant elements should be brought into one in Jesus Christ. But that cannot be done unless the Church carries the message of Christ and of the love of God to every man. It is for that cause that Paul prays. He is praying that the people within the Church may be such that the whole Church will be the body of Christ.
We must note the word used for Paul's attitude in prayer. "I bow my knees," he says, "in prayer to God." That means even more than that he kneels; it means that he prostrates himself. The ordinary Jewish attitude of prayer was standing, with the hands stretched out and the palms upwards. Paul's prayer for the Church is so intense that he prostrates himself before God in an agony of entreaty.
His prayer is to God the Father. It is interesting to note the different things which Paul says in this letter about God as Father, for from them we get a clearer idea of what was in his mind when he spoke of the fatherhood of God.
(i) God is the Father of Jesus ( Ephesians 1:2-3; Ephesians 1:17; Ephesians 6:23). It is not true to say that Jesus was the first person to call God Father. The Greeks called Zeus the father of gods and men; the Romans called their chief god Jupiter, which means Deus Pater, God the Father. But there are two closely interrelated words which have a certain similarity and yet a wide difference in their meaning.
There is paternity. Paternity means fatherhood in the purely physical sense of the term. It can be used of a fatherhood in which the father never even sees the child.
On the other hand there is fatherhood. Fatherhood describes the most intimate relationship of love and of fellowship and of care.
When men used the word father of God before Jesus came, they used it much more in the sense of paternity. They meant that the gods were responsible for the creation of men. There was in the word none of the love and intimacy which Jesus put into it. The centre of the Christian conception of God is that he is like Jesus, that he is as kind, as loving, as merciful as Jesus was. It was always in terms of Jesus that Paul thought of God.
(ii) God is the Father to whom we have access ( Ephesians 2:18; Ephesians 3:12).
The essence of the Old Testament is that God was the person to whom access was forbidden. When Manoah, who was to be the father of Samson, realized who his visitor had been, he said: "We shall surely die, for we have seen God" ( Judges 13:22). In the Jewish worship of the Temple the Holy of Holies was held to be the dwelling-place of God and into it only the High Priest might enter, and that only on one day of the year. the Day of Atonement.
The centre of Christian belief is the approachability of God. H. L. Gee tells a story. There was a little boy whose father was promoted to the exalted rank of brigadier. When the little lad heard the news, he was silent for a moment, and then said, "Do you think he will mind if I still call him daddy?" The essence of the Christian faith is unrestricted access to the presence of God.
(iii) God is the Father of glory, the glorious Father ( Ephesians 1:17). Here is the necessary other side of the matter. If we simply spoke about the accessibility of God, it would be easy to sentimentalize the love of God, and that is exactly what some people do. But the Christian faith rejoices in the wonder of the accessibility of God without ever forgetting his holiness and his glory. God welcomes the sinner, but not if he wishes to trade on God's love in order to remain a sinner. God is holy and those who seek his friendship must be holy too.
(iv) God is the Father of all ( Ephesians 4:6). No man, no Church, no nation has exclusive possession of God; that is the mistake which the Jews made. The fatherhood of God extends to all men, and that means that we must love and respect one another.
(v) God is the Father to whom thanks must be given ( Ephesians 5:20). The fatherhood of God implies the debt of man. It is wrong to think of God as helping us only in the great moments of life. Because God's gifts come to us so regularly we tend to forget that they are gifts. The Christian should never forget that he owes, not only the salvation of his soul, but also life and breath and all things to God.
(vi) God is the pattern of all true fatherhood. That lays a tremendous responsibility on all human fathers. G. K. Chesterton remembered his father only vaguely but his memories were precious. He tells us that in his childhood he possessed a toy theatre in which all the characters were cut-outs in cardboard. One of them was a man with a golden key. He never could remember what the man with the golden key stood for but in his own mind he always connected his father with him, a man with a golden key opening up all kinds of wonderful things.
We teach our children to call God father, and the only conception of fatherhood they can have is that which we give them. Human fatherhood should be moulded on the fatherhood of God.
The Strengthening Of Christ ( Ephesians 3:14-17 Continued)
Paul prays that his people may be strengthened in the inner man. What did he mean? The inner man was a phrase by which the Greeks understood three things.
(a) There was a man's reason. It was Paul's prayer that Jesus Christ should strengthen the reason of his friends. He wanted them to be better able to discern between what was right and what was wrong. He wanted Christ to give them the wisdom which would keep life pure and safe.
(b) There was the conscience. It was Paul's prayer that the conscience of his people should ever become more sensitive. It is possible to disregard conscience so long that in the end it becomes dulled. Paul prayed that Jesus should keep our consciences tender and on the alert.
(c) There was the will. So often we know what is right, and mean to do it, but our will is not strong enough to back our knowledge and to carry out our intentions. As John Drinkwater wrote:
"Grant us the will to fashion as we feel,
Grant us the strength to labour as we know,
Grant us the purpose, ribbed and edged with steel,
To strike the blow.
Knowledge we ask not, knowledge Thou hast lent,
But, Lord, the will--there lies our deepest need,
Grant us the power to build, above the high intent,
The deed. the deed!"
The inner man is the reason, the conscience, the will.
The strengthening of the inner man comes when Christ takes up his permanent residence in the man. The word Paul uses for Christ dwelling in our hearts is the Greek katoikein ( G2730) which is the word used for permanent, as opposed to temporary, residence. Henry Lyte wrote as one of the verses of Abide with me:
"Not a brief glance I beg, a passing word,
But as Thou dwell'st with Thy disciples. Lord,
Familiar, condescending, patient, free,
Come, not to sojourn, but abide with me."
The secret of strength is the presence of Christ within our lives. Christ will gladly come into a man's life--but he will never force his way in. He must await our invitation to bring us his strength.
The Infinite Love Of Christ ( Ephesians 3:18-21)
Paul prays that the Christian may be able to grasp the meaning of the breadth, depth, length and height of the love of Christ. It is as if Paul invited us to look at the universe to the limitless sky above, to the limitless horizons on every side, to the depth of the earth and of the seas beneath us, and said, "The love of Christ is as vast as that."
It is not likely that Paul had any more definite thought in his mind than the sheer vastness of the love of Christ. But many people have taken this picture and have read meanings, some of them very beautiful, into it. One ancient commentator sees the Cross as the symbol of this love. The upper arm of the Cross points up; the lower arm points down; and the crossing arms point out to the widest horizons. Jerome said that the love of Christ reaches up to include the holy angels; that it reaches down to include even the evil spirits in hell; that in its length it covers the men who are striving on the upward way; and in its breadth it covers the men who are wandering away from Christ.
If we wish to work this out we might say that in the breadth of its sweep, the love of Christ includes every man of every kind in every age in every world; in the length to which it would go, the love of Christ accepted even the Cross; in its depth it descended to experience even death; in its height, he still loves us in heaven, where he ever lives to make intercession for us ( Hebrews 7:25). No man is outside the love of Christ; no place is out with its reach.
Then Paul comes back again to the thought which dominates this epistle. Where is that love to be experienced? We experience it with all God's consecrated people. That is to say, we find it in the fellowship of the Church. John Wesley's saying was true, "God knows nothing of solitary religion." "No man," he said, "ever went to heaven alone." The Church may have its faults; church members may be very far from what they ought to be; but in the fellowship of the Church we find the love of God.
Paul ends with a doxology and an ascription of praise. God can do for us more than we can dream of, and he does it for us in the Church and in Christ.
Once again, before we leave this chapter, let us think of Paul's glorious picture of the Church. This world is not what it was meant to be; it is torn in sunder by opposing forces and by hatred and strife. Nation is against nation, man is against man, class is against class. Within a man's own self the fight rages between the evil and the good. It is God's design that all men and all nations should become one in Christ. To achieve this end Christ needs the Church to go out and tell men of his love and of his mercy. And the Church cannot do that, until its members, joined together in fellowship, experience the limitless love of Christ.
-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)
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Barclay, William. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:19". "William Barclay's Daily Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dsb/ephesians-3.html. 1956-1959.
the love of Christ -- The love of Christ toward us; the immensity of redeeming love. Not merely the love showed including Gentiles, but here the love that is shown in giving himself or the whole lost world, John 3:16.
which passes knowledge -- Christ’s love is far beyond the capability of human reason and experience to explaine. (cf. Phil. 4:7).
surpasses knowledge -- This implies that when he says "know," he does not mean that we can adequately know; all we know is, that His love far exceeds our knowledge of it, and with even our fresh accession of knowledge hereafter, will still exceed them. Even as God’s power exceeds our thoughts (Ephesians 3:20).
filled with -- The Greek means "filled even unto all the fulness of God", that is, filled, each according to your capacity, with the divine wisdom, knowledge, and love; "even as God is full," and as Christ who dwells in your hearts, hath "all the fulness of the Godhead dwelling in Him bodily" (Colossians 2:9). (JFB)
filled with all the fullness of God -- Barnes says, "What an expression! How rich and glorious Who can comprehend all that it implies?"
It seems to mean that as God loves and is merciful, so his followers ought to be filled with the same character and attitudes that we know God possesses. - WG
Utley says this " is a play on the false teachings of the Gnostics, who emphasized fullness (plçrôma) as special knowledge which enabled one to pass through all the angelic spheres (aeons) to heaven. Christ is the true "fullness of God" (cf. Ephesians 1:23; Colossians 2:9)."
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Gann, Windell. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:19". Gann's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gbc/ephesians-3.html. 2021.
And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge,.... The love of Christ to his own, to his church and people, is special and peculiar; free and Sovereign; as early as his Father's love, and is durable and unchangeable; the greatest love that ever was heard of; it is matchless and unparalleled; it is exceeding strong and affectionate, and is wonderful and surprising: the instances of it are, his engaging as a surety for them; his espousing both their persons and their cause; his assumption of their nature; his dying in their room and stead; his payment of their debts, atoning for their sins, and bringing in for them an everlasting righteousness; his going to prepare a place for them in heaven; his intercession for them there; his constant supply of all their wants, and the freedom and familiarity he uses them with. The saints have some knowledge of this love, some tastes of it; their knowledge is a feeling and experimental one, fiducial and appropriating, and what influences their faith, and love, and cheerful obedience, but it is but imperfect; though the knowledge they have of it is supereminent, it exceeds all other knowledge, yet this love passes knowledge; not only the knowledge of natural men, who know nothing of it, but the perfect knowledge of saints themselves, in the present life, and of angels also, who desire to look into it, and the mysteries of it; and especially it is so as to some instances of it, such as the incarnation of Christ, his becoming poor who was Lord of all, being made sin, and a curse, and suffering, the just for the unjust. Now the apostle prays, that these saints might know more of this love; that their knowledge, which was imperfect, might be progressive.
That ye might be filled with all the fulness of God; this is the last petition, and is to be understood, not of a full comprehension of the divine Being, nor of a communication of his divine perfections, nor of having in them the fulness of grace, which it has pleased God should dwell in Christ; but either of that fulness of good things, which they may receive from God in this life; as to be filled with a sense of the love and grace of God; with satisfying views of interest in the righteousness of Christ; with the Spirit, and the gifts and graces thereof; with full provisions of food for their souls; with spiritual peace, joy, and comfort; with knowledge of divine things, of God in Christ, of Christ, of the Gospel, and of the will of God; and with all the fruits or righteousness, or good works springing from grace; or else of that fulness which they shall receive hereafter, even complete holiness, perfection of knowledge, fulness of joy and peace, entire conformity to God and Christ, and everlasting communion with them.
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Gill, John. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:19". "Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/ephesians-3.html. 1999.
|The Apostle's Prayer.||A. D. 61.|
14 For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; 17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; 19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. 20 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, 21 Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.
We now come to the second part of this chapter, which contains Paul's devout and affectionate prayer to God for his beloved Ephesians.--For this cause. This may be referred either to the immediately Ephesians 3:13, That you faint not, c., or, rather, the apostle is here resuming what he began at the Ephesians 3:1, from which he digressed in those which are interposed. Observe,
I. To whom he prays--to God, as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of which see Ephesians 1:3; Ephesians 1:3.
II. His outward posture in prayer, which was humble and reverent: I bow my knees. Note, When we draw nigh to God, we should reverence him in our hearts, and express our reverence in the most suitable and becoming behaviour and gesture. Here, having mentioned Christ, he cannot pass without an honourable encomium of his love, Ephesians 3:15; Ephesians 3:15. The universal church has a dependence upon the Lord Jesus Christ: Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named. The Jews were wont to boast of Abraham as their father, but now Jews and Gentiles are both denominated from Christ (so some); while others understand it of the saints in heaven, who wear the crown of glory, and of saints on earth who are going on in the work of grace here. Both the one and the other make but one family, one household; and from him they are named CHRISTIANS, as they really are such, acknowledging their dependence upon, and their relation to, Christ.
III. What the apostle asks of God for these his friends--spiritual blessings, which are the best blessings, and the most earnestly to be sought and prayed for by every one of us, both for ourselves and for our friends. 1. Spiritual strength for the work and duty to which they were called, and in which they were employed: That he would grant you, according to the riches of his grace, to be strengthened, c. The inner man is the heart or soul. To be strengthened with might is to be mightily strengthened, much more than they were at present to be endued with a high degree of grace, and spiritual abilities for discharging duty, resisting temptations, enduring persecutions, c. And the apostle prays that this may be according to the riches of his glory, or according to his glorious riches--answerable to that great abundance of grace, mercy, and power, which resides in God, and is his glory: and this by his Spirit, who is the immediate worker of grace in the souls of God's people. Observe from these things, That strength from the Spirit of God in the inner man is the best and most desirable strength, strength in the soul, the strength of faith and other graces, strength to serve God and to do our duty, and to persevere in our Christian course with vigour and with cheerfulness. And let us further observe that as the work of grace is first begun so it is continued and carried on, by the blessed Spirit of God. 2. The indwelling of Christ in their hearts, Ephesians 3:17; Ephesians 3:17. Christ is said to dwell in his people, as he is always present with them by his gracious influences and operations. Observe, It is a desirable thing to have Christ dwell in our hearts; and if the law of Christ be written there, and the love of Christ be shed abroad there, then Christ dwells there. Christ is an inhabitant in the soul of every good Christian. Where his spirit dwells, there he swells; and he dwells in the heart by faith, by means of the continual exercise of faith upon him. Faith opens the door of the soul, to receive Christ; faith admits him, and submits to him. By faith we are united to Christ, and have an interest in him. 3. The fixing of pious and devout affections in the soul: That you being rooted and grounded in love, stedfastly fixed in your love to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to all the saints, the beloved of our Lord Jesus Christ. Many have some love to God and to his servants, but it is a flash, like the crackling of thorns under a pot, it makes a great noise, but is gone presently. We should earnestly desire that good affections may be fixed in us, that we may be rooted and grounded in love. Some understand it of their being settled and established in the sense of God's love to them, which would inspire them with greater ardours of holy love to him, and to one another. And how very desirable is it to have a settled fixed sense of the love of God and Christ to our souls, so as to be able to say with the apostle at all times, He has loved me! Now the best way to attain this is to be careful that we maintain a constant love to God in our souls; this will be the evidence of the love of God to us. We love him, because he first loved us. In order to this he prays, 4. For their experimental acquaintance with the love of Jesus Christ. The more intimate acquaintance we have with Christ's love to us, the more our love will be drawn out to him, and to those who are his, for his sake: That you may be able to comprehend with all saints, c. (Ephesians 3:18; Ephesians 3:19); that is, more clearly to understand, and firmly to believe, the wonderful love of Christ to his, which the saints do understand and believe in some measure, and shall understand more hereafter. Christians should not aim to comprehend above all saints; but be content that God deals with them as he uses to do with those who love and fear his name: we should desire to comprehend with all saints, to have so much knowledge as the saints are allowed to have in this world. We should be ambitious of coming up with the first three; but not of going beyond what is the measure of the stature of other saints. It is observable how magnificently the apostle speaks of the love of Christ. The dimensions of redeeming love are admirable: The breadth, and length, and depth, and height. By enumerating these dimensions, the apostle designs to signify the exceeding greatness of the love of Christ, the unsearchable riches of his love, which is higher than heaven, deeper than hell, longer than the earth, and broader than the sea,Job 11:8; Job 11:9. Some describe the particulars thus: By the breadth of it we may understand the extent of it to all ages, nations, and ranks of men; by the length of it, its continuance from everlasting to everlasting; by the depth of it, its stooping to the lowest condition, with a design to relieve and save those who have sunk into the depths of sin and misery; by its height, its entitling and raising us up to the heavenly happiness and glory. We should desire to comprehend this love: it is the character of all the saints that they do so; for they all have a complacency and a confidence in the love of Christ: And to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge,Ephesians 3:19; Ephesians 3:19. If it passeth knowledge, how can we know it? We must pray and endeavour to know something, and should still covet and strive to know more and more of it, though, after the best endeavours, none can fully comprehend it: in its full extent it surpasses knowledge. Though the love of Christ may be better perceived and known by Christians than it generally is, yet it cannot be fully understood on this side heaven. 5. He prays that they may be filled with all the fulness of God. It is a high expression: we should not dare to use it if we did not find it in the scriptures. It is like those other expressions, of being partakers of a divine nature, and of being perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect. We are not to understand it of his fulness as God in himself, but of his fulness as a God in covenant with us, as a God to his people: such a fulness as God is ready to bestow, who is willing to fill them all to the utmost of their capacity, and that with all those gifts and graces which he sees they need. Those who receive grace for grace from Christ's fulness may be said to be filled with the fulness of God, according to their capacity, all which is in order to their arriving at the highest degree of the knowledge and enjoyment of God, and an entire conformity to him.
The apostle closes the chapter with a doxology, Ephesians 3:20; Ephesians 3:21. It is proper to conclude our prayers with praises. Our blessed Saviour has taught us to do so. Take notice how he describes God, and how he ascribes glory to him. He describes him as a God that is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think. There is an inexhaustible fulness of grace and mercy in God, which the prayers of all the saints can never draw dry. Whatever we may ask, or think to ask, still God is still able to do more, abundantly more, exceedingly abundantly more. Open thy mouth ever so wide, still he hath wherewithal to fill it. Note, In our applications to God we should encourage our faith by a consideration of his all-sufficiency and almighty power. According to the power which worketh in us. As if he had said, We have already had a proof of this power of God, in what he hath wrought in us and done for us, having quickened us by his grace, and converted us to himself. The power that still worketh for the saints is according to that power that hath wrought in them. Wherever God gives of his fulness he gives to experience his power. Having thus described God, he ascribes glory to him. When we come to ask for grace from God, we ought to give glory to God. Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus. In ascribing glory to God, we ascribe all excellences and perfections to him, glory being the effulgency and result of them all. Observe, The seat of God's praises is in the church. That little rent of praise which God receives from this world is from the church, a sacred society constituted for the glory of God, every particular member of which, both Jew and Gentile, concurs in this work of praising God. The Mediator of these praises is Jesus Christ. All God's gifts come from his to us through the hand of Christ; and all our praises pass from us to him through the same hand. And God should and will be praised thus throughout all ages, world without end; for he will ever have a church to praise him, and he will ever have his tribute of praise from his church. Amen. So be it; and so it will certainly be.
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Ephesians 3:19". "Henry's Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/ephesians-3.html. 1706.
In this epistle we have the unfolding of the grace of God in all its fulness, not merely the application of His righteousness to man's need on His part, but God from out of Himself, and for Himself, as the adequate motive and object before Him, even His own glory. Hence it is that righteousness disappears in this epistle. We have had the gospel thus in all the epistles that have gone before. In Romans, in 1st and 2nd Corinthians, and in Galatians righteousness was largely used. It was developed in a positive and comprehensive way, as in Romans. It was brought in either to convict the Corinthians of their utter departure through the spirit of the world, the flesh taking that shape, or it was brought in triumphantly on their restoration. Again, by it the apostle, writing to the Galatians, vindicated God's ways with man, and set the Christian outside the law.
But in Ephesians the aim is of a much more absolute and direct character. It is not the wants of man in any sense, either positively or negatively. Here God from Himself and for Himself is acting according to the riches of His own grace. Accordingly the very opening brings before us this astonishingly elevated manner of presenting the great truth with which the apostle's heart was filled. "Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God." (Ephesians 1:1) It was pre-eminently for this that he had been chosen as an apostle; and he represents his apostleship not here as a question of calling, but "by the will of God:" everything in this epistle flows from the will of God; "to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus."
Although about to show us what the church is in its heavenly blessing, that is, in its highest associations, he always begins with the individual. This was peculiarly needed. The tendency is ever to set aside what is personal for that which is corporate. The epistle to the Ephesians truly understood will help none so to do. It may be perverted to this or anything else; but so far is our corporate place from being put in the foreground that we do not hear one word about the assembly as such till the close of the first chapter. Only in verse 22 is the church even named for the first time, where it is said God has given Christ "to be the head over all things to the church." But up to this the saints are contemplated as such. The moral order of this is exceedingly beautiful. In the admirable wisdom and grace of God it is the direct setting aside of that which is found in all earthly systems, where the individual is merely a portion of a vast body which arrogates to itself the highest claims. It is not so in the word of God. There the individual blessing of the soul has the first place. God would have us set thoroughly clear and intelligently appreciating our individual place and relation to Himself. Where these are made and kept right, we can then safely follow what God will show us in due time, but not otherwise.
As usual the apostle salutes the saints with the best wishes for their blessing. "Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ." Then, without delay, the next verses introduce a general view of the glorious topic that occupied him. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." It is God in His proper nature, and in His relationship to Jesus. He is the God of Jesus; He is the Father of Jesus. But the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ "hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ." It is not carnal blessing such as was in measure given under the law to Israel, and will be under the new covenant by and by; it is spiritual blessing. The earth is their sphere; it is there that Israel looks to be blessed, and the Gentiles somewhat farther off, but all in the ordered blessing of the Most High God. Altogether differently here "the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" has blessed us where Christ is on high. There is no place good enough for Christ the Son but heaven. There it is God Himself displays most His own glory; there He displays Christ Himself to all the heavenly hosts, delighting to put honour on that Man whom He raised from the dead and set at His own right hand. it is there not merely that He means to bless us, but that He has blessed us already. Such is the character of our blessing, and such its seat. The character is spiritual, the seat heavenly; and as the whole is given by the God and Father of our Lord Jesus, so it is secured in Christ.
In the next verse the apostle opens out that which is move particularly connected with "the God of our Lord Jesus Christ." "According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love." If "the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" has blessed us with every spiritual blessing above in Christ, this is the first need to have a nature capable of communion with His God, to have a condition that would do no dishonour, not only to the highest sphere, but to the holiest form and sphere in which God has ever made, Himself known. This is the nature that is given to the believer now. But it is not merely a thing imparted. The special point before the apostle's mind is that this was the choice of God before the world, in which we are brought to know the infinite blessing. It was entirely unconnected with the world. Far different was Israel's case, however favoured as a nation. They were chosen in time. Not only were they called in time as we have been, but they were chosen in time, which we were not. The choice of the saints for heavenly blessedness was before the creation of the universe, before the foundation of the world.
This gives a very peculiar character to our blessedness. It is altogether independent of the old creation, of that which might fail and pass away. It was a choice of God Himself before there was any creature responsible or dependent. God made known His choice, not when the creature was to be proved, but when it had failed to the uttermost; but the choice itself was decided on by God Himself before the creature came into being. It is the moral answer to what was shown in Christ, "that we should be holy and without blame before him in love." Indeed, these are the very qualities of God Himself. He is holy in nature, and blameless in His ways. Man may cavil and murmur now in unbelief; but God will vindicate them every one when man shall be silent for ever. Besides, there is love, the activity, as well as, the moral qualities, of His being. Love it is which, as it were, puts all in movement that belongs to God. It is not something extraneous that acts on God as a motive, but His own love flowing out from Himself according to His holy nature, and in perfect consistency with His character and ways.
This is the moral nature which God confers on us who are born of Him. This and nothing less or else is what He chooses us to be before Him chooses us to be in Christ in His own sight, and therefore with the fullest certainty that it shall be according to His own mind. It is not merely in the presence of an angel, still less before the world. Angels are not adequate judges of what pertains to us; they may be witnesses, but not judges. God Himself is acting for His own glory and according to His own love. But then the possession of a nature capable of communing with God did not and could not satisfy. He would have something more. What could this possibly be? Is He not satisfied with giving us a nature like His own? No, not even so, and for this reason God has relationships, and these relationships are shown in Jesus just as much as His nature is. If we want to know what the holiness, and blamelessness, and love of God is, we must look at Him; but in the same way also, if we desire to know what are the relationships into which God puts those He loves, where shall we find the highest? Certainly not in the first man Adam. Israel's was at best a mere creature relationship, though, no doubt, having a special place in creation. Of all the creatures that live and breathe, man is the only one on earth that became a living soul by the breath of the Lord God, who, as it is written, breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. That is, there is a creative connection between God and man which is the source of man's moral relations with God, and the reason why man, and man alone of all creatures on the earth, shall live again and give an account of himself to God.
But in that which comes before us in our epistle, it is not a question even of the highest creature on earth one that was called to have dominion on earth, and be the image and glory of God here below. God had in view One infinitely above man; and yet He was a man. It was Jesus; and Jesus stood in what was altogether peculiar in a relationship that was perfectly according to God's counsels; but more than that, according to a relationship that was peculiar to His own person. There was counsel, but besides there was intrinsic glory altogether independent of any plans of conferred honour. In other words, the Son of God never was made the Son, He is never even called the child ( τέκνον ) of God.* To us, to be called children of God is more intimate than to be styled His sons; but it would derogate from the Lord. Jesus is never called a child in the sense in which I am now speaking He has His own relationship to the Father eternally. To us it is more to be born of the very nature of God, than to be sons adopted into the family of God. There might be an adopted son without the nature. One might be altogether a stranger to him that adopts. But in Jesus, the Son of God, there was this character of Son in His own title and being from everlasting. Need I say that this is altogether above human comprehension? Yet nothing is more certain than that God so speaks to our faith. Were there an interval of one instant between the Father and the Son, did the Father exist in any respect before the Son as such, all the truth of God as revealed in the Bible perishes. He to whom I look up, by and in whom alone I can know God and the Father, is God Himself Let the notion of time come into the conception given of Godhead and of the persons Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and all would be falsehood and confusion. The Son would be a creature not self-subsisting, not therefore truly God. For if God, He is as such not less truly God than the Father; for there can be no difference as to Godhead. As the Father is everlasting, so is the Son. The relationship in the Godhead has nothing to do with the question of time; and the great mistake that has been wrought by all human philosophy is from introducing notions of time where time can have no place whatever.
* The Lord Jesus is repeatedly called παῖς , translated "son" and "child" in the English version of the Acts of the Apostles, but more properly God's servant as Messiah.
Thus in the Godhead there are the relationships of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. But I confine myself now to the relationship of the Son to the Father from everlasting. And God, having these counsels before Him from everlasting, deigns to have a people, not only capable of enjoying Him as having the very same nature as His own, without which they could not enjoy glory; but, besides, if He has us in His presence, He would have us in the highest relationship into which grace could bring us. Now, the highest being that of the Son, we accordingly are brought into that relationship, though not, of course, in the sense in which He was eternally so. To us it could be but eternal purpose, to Him eternal being; to us pure grace, but to Him His own indefeasible right. But the Son being before the Father as His supreme object of love and delight from all eternity, to bring us as sons before Him was as much a part of His counsels as to make us partakers of divine nature. Thus nature is the subject of verse 4, as relationship is of verse 5. Hence in the latter we find, not exactly choosing, but predestinating us: "Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will."
It is well to mark the difference. To be before Him without having His own nature would be impossible; and therefore it is not stated as a matter of predestination, but of choice. He might have been pleased to choose none; but if we are to be brought into His presence at all, it is impossible to be there without having the divine nature, in a moral sense (and, of course, one only speaks of this). It is not the impartation of Godhead: none can be so foolish as to think of such a thing. But the divine nature is given to us in its qualities of holiness and love. On the other hand, we find that the predestination is "according to the good pleasure of his will," because no necessity operates in this. There was a moral necessity for a nature suitable to God, if we were to be in His presence at all; but there was none for this special relationship. He might have put us in any degree of relationship He pleased. Angels, for instance, are there; but they have no such relationship. His grace has predestinated us to the very highest relation that of sons unto Himself by Jesus Christ "according to the good pleasure of his will." And the apostle concludes the whole of this part of the matter "to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved." All this wondrous scheme is to the glory of His grace. He uses therefore the highest terms in order to express it. Grace alone would not suffice, glory alone would not serve, but both. It is "to the praise of the glory of his grace." Meanwhile it is again presented to us in this new fact, that we are brought in as objects of His perfect favour in the Beloved. Such is the measure, if measure it can be called, of the grace wherein we stand.
But then those in respect of whom God the Father had such thoughts were in point of fact sinners. The next verse shows that this is not forgotten, for account is taken of the fact, and it is provided for. The same "Beloved" who accounts to us for the counsels of God has brought in redemption. In Him we enter into favour, "in whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of offences," not exactly according to the praise of his glory, "but according to the riches of His grace." It is a present thing in every sense, though, of course, needed for heaven and eternity. Hence the expression does not go beyond the riches of God's grace. Thus is touched, incidentally, the need of our souls as offenders against God, but only so far as to show that it was in no way overlooked.
Next the apostle turns to the boundless scene that lies before us, as in the preceding verses he had looked at what is behind us. And why is all this? Clearly God has a purpose, a settled and glorious plan to gather the whole universe under Christ as its Head. Are those that He has brought into a share of His own moral nature and the relationship of sons to be left out of this? In nowise: even now He has abounded toward them "in all wisdom and prudence." These words do not attribute to God all wisdom and prudence, which certainly would be nothing new; but they intimate that He has now conferred on His saints all wisdom and prudence. It is truly an astonishing statement. The contrast is with Adam, who had a knowledge that was suited to his own place and relationship. Accordingly we hear inGenesis 2:1-25; Genesis 2:1-25 how he gave names to all that was put under him. And as to his wife, he instantly understands, though he had been in a deep sleep while she was being formed. But when presented to him, he knows all that it was meet for him to know then. He knows instinctively that she was part of himself, and gives her a name suitably. Such seems to have been the measure of Adam's wisdom and prudence. As being the image and glory of God on earth, he is the one that gives names to his companion, or to the subject creation. It is not merely that he accepts names given him by God, but God delights in putting him in this place of lordship, and to a certain extent also of fellowship lordship to that which is below him, and fellowship as regarded his wife. Thus, then, Adam acts and speaks.
But the saints, now being made the objects of these heavenly counsels of God, have a wisdom and prudence of their own, quite peculiar to the new creation in Christ, and its proper relations: God puts no limits to it. In point of fact, He looks for the expression and exercise of it, be assured, from all of us, though no doubt according to our measure. It is no use merely taking it up as a name or barren title. Our God and Father does look for the display of the mind of Christ in us, so that we should be able to form a judgment according to Himself, and to express it about whatever comes before us. For if we are in Christ, we have a vantage ground which makes all things clear. Christ is not darkness but light, and puts all in the light; He makes us to be children of the light, that so we may be able to judge ourselves, not discerned by man as such, but capable of discerning whatever claims our attention. Such is the place of a Christian, and a wondrous place it is, flowing from the nature and relationship which we possess by the grace of our God.
But the connection is important. God has "abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; having made known unto us [what is the special proof of it] the mystery of his will." This does not yet appear; for there is nothing to indicate to mankind what He purposes to do. It is an absolutely new thing; and this new purpose is "according to the good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: that in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth, even in him; in whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will, that we should be to the praise of his glory," etc.
Here the apostle repeats that high, large, and blessed phrase already so familiar to us, "that we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ; in whom ye also [trusted]." It was not confined to those that had their hope founded on Christ while the nation refused Him. Paul was one of those; and there were others at Ephesus, as we well know in point of fact the first nucleus of the assembly there. The first saints and faithful in the city of Ephesus, asActs 19:1-41; Acts 19:1-41 shows, were persons who had been baptized with the baptism of John, and afterwards brought from Jewish to Christian ground by the apostle Paul. Hence he says, "that we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ," referring to himself and any other saints who had been chosen from the people of the Jews. At the same time there is no exclusion of Gentile believers, but the reverse. "In whom ye, also [trusted], after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation." For the mass subsequently brought in were Gentiles, and the gospel of salvation they forthwith received, without going through the intermediate steps that the others knew. The Jews, or those who had been under Jewish teaching, had been for a while in an infantine state, or an Old Testament condition; but the Gentiles by faith passed simply and directly into the full Christian blessing. "In whom also, after that ye believed, ye were sealed with the holy Spirit of promise, who is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory."
It cannot have escaped observation that there are two great parts in that which has come before us. The first is nature; the second is relationship. The Holy Ghost is here viewed according to these two. Connected with nature, He has sealed us, as it is said here and elsewhere; and connected with relationship, He is the earnest. For "if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ." The Holy Ghost thus takes a corresponding part. Just as Christ is the sample and model whether of nature or relationship, so the Holy Ghost is not without His own proper place in bringing the saint into the reality, knowledge, and enjoyment of both. The Holy Ghost gives us the certainty and joyful assurance of our place as saints; the Holy Ghost at the same time gives us the foretaste of the bright inheritance of God that lies beyond.
Then follows a prayer of the apostle the first of those he pours out for the Ephesian saints. Naturally this prayer grows out of the two great truths he had been urging. He prays for the saints "that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory [for this is what his mind connected with it], may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened, that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints." These are the two former points. The "hope of his calling" is the bright prospect of the saints themselves, as they are in Christ before God. "The riches of the glory of his inheritance" embrace, of course, that vast scene of creation which is to be put under the glorified saints. He prays accordingly that they might enter into both, realizing the holy peaceful atmosphere of the one, and the glorious expectations that were bound up with the other; for clearly the future is before his mind. But then he adds a third point, which was not given in the previous part of the chapter; namely, that they might know "what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead."
This last was of all-importance to the saints, and the rather as that power had already been put forth. It shines in full contrast with Israel. If the latter enquired how God had interfered most conspicuously for them, no doubt they were reminded of the power that brought them out of the land of Egypt. This was always their comfort in the midst of disasters and troubles. The God that divided the Red Sea, and brought them across Jordan, was equal to any difficulty that might ever assail them again. In the prophets this too remains always the standard, until God exert His power in another way, when He shall be no longer spoken of as Jehovah that brought them out of the land of Egypt, but out of the north country into their land, where He shall settle them for ever. Thus Israel stands in the permanent remembrance of power that redeemed them from the land of Egypt, and in the anticipation of a still greater manifestation that will eclipse whatever had been seen of old.
But the Christian is even now himself, with his fellow-saints, the object of the very same power which never can be outshone the power that raised up Christ from the dead. We wait for nothing greater nor its match; we await the results of this glorious power for the body and the creation; but we look for no new putting forth of power which can enter into competition with that which God has already shown in Christ. The moment that Jesus presents Himself as the answer to what has been put forth already, the saints rise or are changed in the twinkling of an eye. Besides, it is not merely that the body will immediately respond to the call of the Lord Jesus, but even now the very same power Acts wrought toward us in making us Christians which "wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in that which is to come: and hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all." Such is the power that has wrought now wrought toward us even while we are in this world.
Accordingly, in Ephesians 2:1-22, the apostle pursues this train, and shows that it is not another exertion of power, but a part of the very same work of God which raised up Jesus from the dead. In other words, Christ was not raised up as an insulated individual, severed from all others by His glory and their sin and shame. The gospel of God's grace proclaims the very reverse. He was raised up as the great manifestation of divine power for effectuating God's counsels as well as redemption. Not only was His resurrection this manifestation, but also whatever God put forth toward us was in virtue of that display of His energy was, so to speak, morally included in that power which raised up Christ from the dead. This clearly is of the deepest possible interest to the saints. Throughout the epistle all the secret is just this God would associate us with Christ (that is, of course, in everything that is consistent with the maintenance of the divine glory). Whatever could contribute to it, whatever fell in according to it, everything that God Himself could do to bind us up with Christ, sharing with us all that is glorious in Christ His own Son, even to His holy nature and relationship with the Father, as far as this could be conferred on a creature, is no more than God had in His heart yea, is what God has given us now, and will display in heavenly Places ere long.
So the apostle says, "You hath he quickened, who were dead in offences and sins;" for now we can bear to learn anything, however humiliating, and He can speak of anything, no matter how exalted or holy. God had never so spoken of man before. In Romans the sinner is regarded as alive in sins; and death, the death of Christ, is the means of deliverance. In Ephesians death is the very first place where we find even Christ. Not a word is said of sending Him into the world, or of His life and labours there, any more than of our doing this or being that. The first place where Christ is seen is in the grave whence God according to the mightiest action of His almighty power raised Him up. It was an absolutely new thing: never was seen one so glorious, never can there be another so triumphant, as the power there put forth. Man, Satan, yea, the judgment of God that had gone forth against Him because of our sins, had no force to detain Him in the grave. That judgment had fallen on Him necessarily and unsparingly; but in the face of everything calculated to hinder, God's power broke up the last stronghold of the enemy. There was Jesus lying in the grave; and from that grave God raised Him, and set Him on the highest pinnacle of heaven's glory not only of that which then was, but that ever shall be. Such is the very power that has taken you and me up in divine grace, and wrought toward us. The very power that brought you out of the world and of your sins is the power that raised up Christ from the dead, set Him in the heavenly places, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fulness of that glorious Head to whom it is united.
This is pursued then first with reference to the Gentiles, for now the order is reversed. InEphesians 1:1-23; Ephesians 1:1-23 he began with the Jews, and then showed the Gentiles brought in; but now he begins with the outer circle where the Gentiles were. "And you hath he quickened, who were dead in offences and sins; wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience." What can be conceived more dreadful than such a condition, positively without spiritual life, dead in offences and sins! Not only so, but they had walked according to the course of that which is most of all offensive to God "of this world, according to the prince of the authority of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience;" for indeed they were, one as much as another, children of disobedience. "Among whom also we all," etc., for he does not let slip the Jews, but turns round on their estate, equally lifeless as the Gentiles. They might otherwise think themselves more or less superior. He had spoken of the poor idolatrous Gentiles and their awful condition; but "we all," says he, putting himself along with them, Jews as we were, children of the covenant and what not, were none the less dead in offences and sins. "Among whom also we all had our conversation in time past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, quickened us together with Christ (by grace ye are saved), and raised us up together." Now he unites both in this place of richest blessing; for He has even "made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus." In truth it is His grace to the full, and for heaven (not earth), though given to us to know here before we get there; "for by grace are ye saved." The whole work is thus presented in its completeness from first to last; nevertheless, it is only "through faith" as yet. This is and must be the medium, as far as the saints are concerned, grace being the spring on God's part: "and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship."
It is clearly not a question of righteousness here, or consistency with any known standard of judgment. God would frame a new sort of workmanship worthy of Himself; and therefore all question of antecedent measures disappears. Righteousness supposes a claim in the first place, however met; even though it may be God's righteousness, still it is God acting in consistency with Himself and His own claims. But in Ephesians we are in presence of a new creation in Christ, where claim is out of the question. Who would demand of God to make the objects of His mercy like Christ the Son? Who could, before He revealed His purpose, have so much as conceived such a dealing possible? Even now, though plainly made known in this epistle and elsewhere, how few Christians there are who rest in it as their assured portion! So totally and absolutely is it outside the range of human thought and feeling that the difficulty is to drop self, to cut all the strings that bind us to human nature and the world, to see all ended even now that is connected with the present course of this age, so that we may be simply occupied and filled with that heavenly blessedness which God unfolds to our souls.
However this be, "We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works," a peculiar kind of good works, suited to the relationship in which we stand. This is the great point to seize always throughout Scripture. There never can be spiritual understanding, unless souls let in this after all plain principle, that the suited good depends on the relationship in which we are placed, whether to God, or to any other. The, good for an Israelite, for a Gentile, for a man, is wholly different from the good for a Christian, because their relationships are not the same as his. Now we are Christians; and this decides the character of the duties we have to pay, or of the good works which He has before prepared that we should walk in them; for "we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus" for this very purpose. It is not at all put as a question of command according to the law; but "God had before prepared," as a part of His wonderful scheme, "that we should walk in them." He merely now touches on the principle, as he had before let us see not merely God's counsels from before the foundation of the world, but the manner and means of their application through Christ our Lord to us in time. Hence the condition in which we were found here below came into view; and, as we have seen, it was total ruin, whether Jew or Gentile be looked at.
But now fromEphesians 2:11; Ephesians 2:11 the apostle enters into particulars, and shows that the bringing down from God's own heights of these glorious counsels and making them thus manifest in man here below, completely sets aside the Jewish system, or rather supposes the setting aside of all Jewish elements. Hence, being "Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; [the apostle bids such remember] that at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world." And what had God done now? Had He brought the Gentiles into the place that Israel once occupied? The Jews had rejected their own Messiah. Of old they had forfeited every claim according to the law, and were spared and kept in God's mercy and faithfulness. But now they had consummated their rebellion by refusing the Christ of God. What was to be done? Would God send out and bring in the Gentiles to fill their place? Another plan discloses itself. The Jews who believe are taken out of their former place, as much as the Gentiles, who had no place. Both are now introduced by grace into an entirely new and heavenly place in Christ, which was not so much as heard of before. Accordingly not only does he enforce the truth first presented in the end of chapter 1, the church which is the body of Christ, but he also still more qualifies it as a "new man," and as "one body;" because, in treating of the two objects of grace, and component parts of the church, Jews and Gentiles who believe, he shows that God does not purpose to form two societies of these saints, but one body. It is not a mere aggregate of Gentiles into the well-known line of old blessing, but one new man, not merely fresh in time, but of an absolutely new order, never seen or experienced before. It is not again a simple question of a new nature, but of a new man: the first Adam, with all remedial or corrective dealings in him disappear, and one new man comes before our view.
Here again the apostle brings in the relation of the Holy Ghost to the new things. The consequence is that we find the Spirit of God, now sent down from heaven, not only putting the saints into relationship with the Father, but, besides, dwelling in them and making them God's habitation through the Spirit.
Thus we have at last the church developed in its two main characters. It has its heavenly association as the one body of Christ; it has its earthly place and responsibility as the "habitation of God through the Spirit." All this, it will be observed, is consequent on the cross. The one was not at all, nor was the other in such sort before. God had a dwelling-place of old in Israel; but it was a house made with hands, however magnifical, that followed the tabernacle of witness in the desert, in both of which the Shechinah, or visible sign of His glory, deigned to dwell. Such is not the character of God's dwelling now. It is neither the tabernacle, nor the temple, but His habitation in Spirit. It is not, of course, a display of glory before men's eyes; yet is it most real a proper dwelling of God on earth, answering to, though not necessarily coextensive with, those who are constituted the body of Christ glorified on high. Not that the body is there yet, but that the body of Christ is heavenly in its character, although in fact on the earth now. Besides, as we have seen, the church is the dwelling-place of God through the Holy Ghost's presence here below.
This leads toEphesians 3:1-21; Ephesians 3:1-21, in which the apostle unfolds things parenthetically. It is a revelation of God that comes in at the time when the Jews have, at least temporarily, lost their place altogether. The very structure of the chapter, as has been noticed, is a sort of confirmation of this. The chapter itself is a parenthesis. "For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, if ye have heard of the dispensation [administration or stewardship] of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: how that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery (as I wrote afore in few words; whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ); which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed." Observe, therefore, that what was the first in counsel is the last in revelation.
Accordingly, when all was complete in the communication of God's plans in the Bible, there was one subject that was left a blank. Paul was the chosen witness to fill up that blank. He wrote in few words no doubt, but he has written with divine perfection, and clearly enough for those by God's grace made competent to understand, let the words be ever so few. Many wonder that such truths as these should not have more words used in communicating them. But profound truths are for those who have spiritual understandings; and such do not require many words to comprehend them. When persons are only learning the elements of truth, the grace of God provides precept on precept, line on line, for those who want it. If He is showing needy souls how they may be forgiven of God, He displays it in a thousand forms; if the need of righteousness, He repeats it over and over again. But it is not so with the revelation of the mystery. There is a certain spiritual competence supposed, a due preparation not only of heart, but also of knowledge; or, as the apostle said, "we speak wisdom among them that are perfect," Here no lengthy exposition would be wanted about it, because they were not so infantine as to suppose that the truth of God depends on the number of times that a thing is asserted. Once is enough for the intelligent.
God therefore has not been pleased in the heights of divine truth to repeat words in the same way as His grace leads Him to do when He is helping the babes. Hence the apostle Paul, in what is by no means the simplest utterance he has given, writes in few words. He could condescend. We know how he would bend down and be as it were a; Gentile to one without law, and a Jew to one under law, to do good to souls.
But now he speaks briefly. He was not constrained to enter into a full or long explanation. But as he said that by revelation it was made known to him, so he would from God communicate it to them. "Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit." It is remarkable that the mystery, though revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the power of the Holy Ghost, was not revealed by them. It was revealed by Paul alone. Revealed to all the apostles and prophets of the New Testament, to one as much as another, it never seems to have taken such a hold of the others as of Paul. In point of fact, from his conversion right through, the revelation of the mystery was involved. That which comforted his soul was Christ in heavenly glory far above all things. As the light that shone then was brighter, than the sun at noonday, so in the vision the truth about to be learnt was entirely outside and superior to the present or the past. It was grace in its deepest character and in its highest form, and so the apostle Paul was the suited vessel that God employed to instruct others, not merely the one to whom the revelation was made, but by whom the revelation was to be communicated. It is revealed to us here.
We must carefully remember that the mystery does not mean the church merely. It is the mystery of Christ emphatically; and the part about Christ is the higher of the two. The church is but a consequence; and we bless God for this, and bless Him also that we know the church is but the complement of Christ. One might distrust a mystery, if it centred in the church. Who that knows what man is, and God, as Christ has made both known, would dare to rest in any one person or thing which did not find its brightest form in Christ Himself? And the reason is simple; so inadequate is the creature, so untrustworthy is the first Adam, that one might well be certain the true meaning of the Bible was lost to him who judged otherwise. Such an one must have only got the lower end of the line, and not the full truth in its own native purity and freshness from God. Impossible that the Head should not be there as well as the body; and the apostle speaks as to Christ yet more than as to the assembly.
God then brings out His own secret, after having kept it hidden from all past ages and generations, though, of course, it has been before Him from the beginning. If God reveals it now, the idea of man of ourselves being the first and main object in the mind of God is impossible. It is the mystery of Christ; and this is what secures the blessing in its fulness and purity for the church of God. Therefore we need never fear, no matter what the blessing and the privilege may be. If it be illustrated in Christ, if it be bound up with Him, fear not to trust simply and to believe implicitly. Enter boldly into the sweetness of His grace and fulness of His glory. We never can go astray, if we follow the path of the Lord Jesus.
Though it is the mystery of Christ, it is not exclusively about Christ. So in Ephesians 5:1-33 he says, "This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church." Is there not good reason for saying that the church is but a consequence? The church follows; and as it belongs to Christ, so it is a part of Him. Hence, to make the mystery to be the church is a very serious moral as well as doctrinal mistake.
The apostle adds that it was now revealed of the Spirit, "That the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel: whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints" there is nothing like this truth, where it is learnt from the Holy Ghost, for humbling the soul, were it even the greatest of the apostles, "is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; and make all see what is the fellowship [rather administration] of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in, God, who created all things [by Jesus Christ to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God."
God had something more to teach those who are the natural denizens of heaven. They had to learn what they had never known. They had seen creation, and sung at the sight. They had seen the ways of God with man, and with Israel; and surely they had entered into the glory of God that was involved in all His ways. Nevertheless, whether it was creation, whether man or favoured Israel, there was so much the more painful a declension that portended the judgment of God upon them. Thus there were dark shadows, and lowering clouds. But now appeared something altogether new. Latest of all, God divulged His wonderful scheme in which the man that came from above, the Son that became a man, the Word made flesh, had gone down to the very lowest in order to make good the glory of God morally in the scene where He had been most put to shame. But now, consequent on His resurrection from the dead, and of the place given Him in heaven above all, there was made known to these very principalities and powers "the manifold wisdom of God," made known to them before it came to pass, the sure deliverance of the whole scene of creation, of man, of Israel, as well as of the earth. But not merely this. That man who came down but was found alone to the end of His earthly course would now be alone no more; He would have a new and suited body, believing Jews and Gentiles fellow-heirs and of the same body. Most wholesome blessedness! for who should be more above the feelings of jealousy than those who delight in that which shows the greatness, and the glory, and the perfect goodness of God in His greatest work? This, then, was what was needed for the principalities and powers, and this is what they behold in the church of God.
The apostle accordingly is now led at the sight of the mystery of Christ into another prayer, in which he asks "the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ [for now he takes up the other relationship,], of whom the whole [rather, every] family in heaven and earth is named, that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; being rooted and grounded in love, that ye may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye may be filled with all the fulness of God."
Here the prayer is not, as in the first chapter, that they might know the power that had wrought toward them; it is now that their hearts might be in the secret of His grace according to the power that works in them. That is, he looks at the inner source, not merely at the glorious results. Here he prays to the Father of our Lord Jesus, not simply to the God that had raised up the Christ from the dead, and was glorifying Him on high. It will be observed that the desire is not merely that they might be enlightened as to the special glory of their standing, but that their hearts might be filled with the love of Christ, and this too as a present thing filling them to overflowing, though surely not to cease in the ages to come. "Unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end." This is not a question therefore of the place or standing of the Christian, but rather of his condition or state, which the Spirit would have in unison with the love of Him who alone made either possible. Consequently here it is not an energy already put forth, but he pleads that Christ might dwell by faith in their hearts. It is not a conferred position, however blessed, but practical enjoyment even that Christ Himself might be habitually the object before them, now that all question of deliverance and blessing was settled in their favour. It was all a known thing that they were blessed by yea, with Christ, forming a part of Christ, expressly fellow-heirs, and of the same body. But now, founded on this, the apostle prays thus for them, that the Holy Ghost would so act in the inner man that there might be no hindrance to Christ, and that they might know, not the Holy Ghost (for this they did not doubt), but Christ dwelling there by His power constantly.
Unquestionably the Spirit of God does evermore dwell in the Christian, though I am not aware that He is ever said to dwell in our hearts. He may shed abroad the love of God therein; but He is rather said to dwell in us, making the body God's temple. Here the apostle would have Christ to be more the satisfying object of our affections. This is the point. Far be it from us just to know that He loves us through the word of God, as a security to us, like a dry parchment deed of gift that we quietly keep in a strong box. Rather is the very gospel to the sinner free and full, that, having the certainty of the divine fulness of our blessing, our hearts may be now open to enjoy Christ, and be occupied with His love. "That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith;" not that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, but "rooted," etc., that ye "may be able to comprehend with all saints." It is not here deliverance, let it be ever so complete; it is not the knowledge of our position in Christ as inEphesians 1:1-23; Ephesians 1:1-23; but rather the converse Christ dwelling in us by faith, and the heart entering into the positive excellency of the Son, the only adequate object of the Father's own delight. Hence it was that they might "be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and. height; and to know the love of Christ." It is not only the full extent of glory, but the sole satisfying spring, Christ thus dwelling in our hearts in the consciousness of His love "to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God." He is the ultimate blessedness with which we are filled, the One in whom we most confide, being the Son, in whom dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.
Thus, having Him who is the centre of all glory dwelling in our affections by faith, we enter into, and become established in, the grace which is the secret of it all. In communion with the objects of it, we go out into the resulting scenes of glory on every side; knowing Christ's love though unknowable, and filled into God's fulness though infinite. The apostle concludes his prayer with an ascription of glory to Him in the Church unto all generations of the age of the ages, able to do far above all we ask or think according to His power which works in us. It is thus seen to be founded on the great facts and standing privileges mentioned at the end of Ephesians 2:1-22; but it is the desire that the saints should know God's present power to an indefinite extent working in them in spiritual enjoyment, through the Holy Ghost's power, giving us to have Christ the definite and constant object of the heart.
Ephesians 4:1-32 begins the proper exhortatory portion, and here, first of all, urges a walk in view of such a calling as is ours, diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Then the diversities are brought before us. "I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love." The very truth which, learnt and enjoyed in the Holy Ghost, conduces to all lowliness and meekness, as it calls for mutual forbearance in love, flesh would abuse to all pride and vain-gloriousness, to high-minded contempt of others, and bitter self-confidence. Than these nothing less becomes those so blessed. Oh that we might have grace to walk in communion with such grace! But if we are to walk thus, let us not forget the prayer for the state of our hearts which precedes these exhortations. Knowledge of standing and a, state answering to Christ's love, are the basis of a walk worthy of our calling. "The unity of the Spirit" seems to be the general name for that great fact which is now established that unity of which Christ is the chief, and to which we all belong. The apostle treats it as our business diligently to observe it. It is impossible for flesh to be true to it. This is as it should be. An easy path could not be divine, as men and things are on earth. We need, but we have, the Holy Spirit who is surely all-sufficient, if looked to. It is impossible to exaggerate the snares and difficulties of Christendom.
But what are difficulties to the Spirit of God? This is the great want simple, genuine faith in the Holy Ghost. He is equal to all, and, would have us count on His presence and power answering to the name of Christ. What has all the confusion of men to do with the glorious reality that God has established His unity, of which we all form part by the power of His Spirit? What does it matter about times, persons, or circumstances, if the Spirit abide to enable us, according to Scripture, diligently to keep His own unity? Numbers are of small account here. The Lord might be where there are only two gathered together unto His name. If but two acted accordingly, they ought to be and would be an expression of the unity of the Spirit. What is the value of any other unity? It can never rise above its human source. Evidently also, it is no essential matter for present practice of faithfulness, whether few or many see and feel it: this is a question for God's will, who will act for His own glory, whether by many or by few. Let this then rest in His hands. Be it our part with diligence (for this is needed) "to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."
Then we hear the particulars, and in a very orderly manner. "There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling." This verse states the intrinsic unity that never passes away, beginning with the fact of "one body;" then the efficient power, one Spirit; and lastly the cause of it all in the calling of grace. Nothing touches these.
In the next verse we have that which has been justly designated the unity of profession, where all things may come in to mar. Hence it is said, "One Lord," which is precisely that which is owned in the common creed of Christendom. And as there is one Lord, so "one faith." It is neither "faith" nor "the faith." That is, it may not be sincere, nor even doctrinally the truth that is held; but we hear of lone faith" in contrast with Judaism on one hand, and with Paganism on the other. Hence "one baptism" follows, which the context shows to be the plain initiatory rite of Christian profession, and nothing else. In the verse before the apostle had spoken of the "one Spirit," and hence it would be superfluous to introduce the statement of His baptism here, even if the adjuncts did not exclude the idea.
Thus we have had, first of all, the great spiritual reality which is always true of Christians, and of none else. They, and only they, have "one Spirit" dwelling in them. They only have the "one hope of their calling." But the moment you come to the "one Lord," this city, yea every city in Christendom, is a witness to a wide-spread profession of His name. As He is outwardly called on, so there is everywhere the "one faith," which does not mean (alas! we know too well) saving faith necessarily, but the faith of Christendom; and accordingly "one baptism" is its mark, because thus they are put on or take the ground of professing the one Lord and one faith.
Lastly, "one God and Father of all." Here we come to what is universal. Each circle hitherto was getting larger and larger. First there was the true company that had divine life and the Spirit of God; secondly, the circle of profession very much more extensive; and thirdly remains the universal unity, which embraces not Christendom only, but all the creatures of God included under their one God and Father whatever derived its being from God, the God that created all things, as we were told in Ephesians 3:9. He consequently is the lone God and Father of all," not merely of all believers, for this is a mistake of its force, but of all absolutely; just as we were told in verse 15 of that same chapter, that of Him every family in heaven and earth is named. No matter whether Jews or Gentiles, principalities or powers, every family is derived from this universal source of existence "One God and Father of all, who is above all [there we find His supremacy], and through all [there we find His permeance, if one may so say, as the support, of the whole universe], and in you all" [His intimacy with the saints]. The moment the apostle comes to inward relationship, he leaves the universality of phrase and speaks only of the saints of God "in you all." No statement can be conceived more exact.
Now we must turn to the diversities. "But to every [each] one is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ." And as the unity flowed from the power of the Spirit sent down from heaven; so now when we come to gifts, it is expressly connected with Christ in glory. "Wherefore he saith, when he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended." Yes, but He did not go up as He came down from above. He came a divine person filled with love; and He went a man also, triumphant not with love only but in righteousness and power, to give effect to all the glorious counsels of His Father, which unjudged sin would have for ever frustrated. He went up after all the working of evil had been really defeated and destroyed in the sight of God. Satan is allowed to go on for a little while longer, because God is gathering out the joint-heirs, while the evil develops itself in a new form Man had been shown to be the enemy of all righteousness, and now betrays himself the enemy of all grace. As the end of the latter will be incomparably worse than the former, so judgment will be commensurate with man's apostasy from grace; for the Lord must come from heaven, "in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and on them that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Meanwhile, before a blow is struck at man's failure in the presence of righteousness, or at his apostasy from grace, that blessed Saviour, the only begotten Son in the bosom of the Father, the Son of man who is in heaven, went down to the very uttermost, and (having exhausted the powers of evil, and blotted out all that could rise against the objects of God's grace,) was raised and seated by God in heaven. He takes His place there, of course always the Son; but, wonderful to say, humanity makes an integral and everlasting part, so to speak, of that divine person, the Son of God. And here is the key, and that which accounts for the astonishing display of what God is now doing in man. How could it be otherwise, seeing that He who sits on His throne, tar above every creature in God's presence and in all ages, is a man, but withal the very Son of God? The Son is as truly man as God, and as such gives gifts to men. Angels are not the object. They had a distinguished place before the Son became man. Since then it is not so much they that have lost, but man in and by Christ that has gained such a place as they never had nor could have. Never were they to reign; never will they be one with Christ like the saints. They are "ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation."
But Christ at the right hand of God gives gifts unto men; and, as it is said here, "He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;" bringing in both the highest gifts and also those ordinarily requisite for the good of the saints. I say "requisite," simply in view of Christ's love towards the church. It is not a question of rendering a testimony of the power of God working in man and dealing with the first creation. In Corinthians we have this, and properly in its place. There we have tongues, miracles, etc.; because all that is connected with man in the flesh and in the world is a sign to unbelievers, showing them the goodness of God, and the defeat of that wicked power which governs human nature as it is.
But in the epistle to the Ephesians we have none of these dealings with the first man, but that which forms and nourishes the new creation. Hence we have those gifts alone which are the expression of the grace of Christ toward the saints that He loves, for ministerial work, for the building up of His body. In this order He gave them the body to be edified, and ministry carried on, but always the individual first. The building up of the body is the fruit of God's blessing the individual saints. It cannot be otherwise. It is in vain to look for the church's prosperity, if saints individually do not grow up unto Christ. And so these gifts are given, as it is said, "till we all come 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: that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up unto him in all things, which is the head, even Christ."
Then we have in the centre of this chapter no longer the unity or the gifts differing, but the moral walk of the saints. And what is the first lesson of the truth as it is in Jesus? This; not only that we hear of the one body, and that saints compose this body, but that a new man is seen. Introducing this great practical truth, he reminds them of what they had been, but also tells them what they are now. Our duties flow from what we are, or are made. And what then is the truth as it is in Jesus? Our having put off the old man, and our having put on the new man. Such is the truth, if indeed we have learnt the Christ as God teaches Him. Anything short of this is not the true Christian measure. Jesus could occupy Himself in divine love. Self would have hindered; had there been a particle, it would have ruined both His person and His work; but this is not the truth as it is in Jesus. He came so as to be left absolutely free to occupy Himself in love for God's glory and our desperate need. And now, in Him who is dead and risen, the Christian has put completely off the old man, is being renewed in the spirit of his mind, and has put on the new man, which according to God is created in righteousness and holiness of truth.
Not only is there this new man that God has created after the image of Christ in contrast with the first Adam, but this is the ground why all moral evil is to be judged, beginning with deceit and falsehood. "Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: neither give place to the devil. Let the stealer steal no more." How solemn to learn what the old man is in its most detestable forms, against all which the Christian is warned! Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers."
But, besides the new man which lives in dependence, we need to guard against losing power according to God. "Grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption." Thus the great basis of all our walk is, that the old man has been judged in Jesus, and the new man we have already put on; but, moreover, the Holy Ghost is given, and we are sealed by Him. Thus we have a new nature which hates sin, and the Holy Ghost which gives power for that which is good.
Then he adds the great exemplar and spirit of it all, according to the forgiveness with which God met us in Christ. "Be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ hath forgiven you." But there is yet more. To forgive another's wrongs is not enough for a Christian. No doubt it is a giving up of self, and therefore the fruit of divine grace. But in Ephesians God cannot but have us imitate His own ways as they have shone in Christ. He Himself is the measure of the walk of the new man, and the manifestation of it is Christ Himself. Nothing short of this suffices. What has God done? He has forgiven you in Christ; and you are called to do the same. But was this all? Was there only this? Was there not positive love, far beyond forgiveness? And what is the manifestation of love? Not the law, but Christ. "Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour."
Do you think this devotedness too much? yea, impossible? Not so. Take a passage in 2 Corinthians (2 Corinthians 8:5), which has been before us only a short time ago: "And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God." How blessed is the character and the spring of Christian service! Think of their giving themselves first to the Lord, then to us by the will of God. It is just the answer to the grace of God in Christ. Nor is there full Christian service, except in proportion as it is according to this pattern and in this power. In Christ it was, of course, absolutely perfect: He did give Himself for us. But this was not enough. He might have given Himself ever so truly in pity for us; but it would not have been perfection, had He not "given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour." And so accordingly all that is acceptable takes this shape. "But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once .named among you, as becometh saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking [even light words dishonour the Christian, as being contrary to Christ], nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God."
But there are other elements. God is not only love but light; and inasmuch as this epistle reveals how fully God associates us with Christ according to His own nature, so having first shown us the privilege of loving, as He Himself loved us in Christ, now it shows that we are made "light in the Lord." But it is not said that we are love. This would be too strong, yea, false. Love is God's nature, but it is a sovereign prerogative in Him. In His own actings it has no motive or spring except in Himself. This could not be true of us. We need both motive and object, and hence could not be said to be love; because not we, but only God acts from Himself, as much as for Himself. Impossible that the creature could be or do so; and therefore the creature is never said to be love. But there is love after a divine sort in the new nature, which is said to be light, because this is the necessity of the new nature. Impossible that the new nature could countenance sin; the very essence of it is rejection and exposure of what is contrary to God. It is sensitive about sin; detects and detests it thoroughly. Hence we are said to be "light in the Lord," and we need to shake off the things of death that encumber the light, and hinder it. And so Christ gives us more light. For the word is, "Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light." But just as before, in the walk which shuts out hatred, and anger, and so on, we were warned against grieving the Spirit of God; so the power of the Holy Ghost asserts itself here. Here it is not merely "Grieve not the Holy Spirit." He goes farther, and says, "Be filled with the Spirit." "Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord."
And is this all? It is not. There has been the full unfolding of God's love, and the answer to it in the saints here below in their nature, and in the ways that manifest the new nature. But, besides, we have relationships; and now we have God manifesting Himself in each of our positions, and showing us that these are meant to give us opportunity of glorifying God by the good works that were before ordained of God. Accordingly he brings in the most important of them, first, the wife and the husband; then, children and their parents; and, finally, servants and masters.
All through these then we have, but more particularly in the first, the interweaving of the duty with the manifestation of God's grace: "Christ also loved the church." It is not now either sovereign love, or love of complacency. There was the sovereign love of God in Christ forgiving us; there was love of complacency, inasmuch as we were to love according to that love with which we were loved, as shown us in the matchless love of Christ. But now there is love of relationship as well; and here too Christ appears, who is the pattern and perfection of grace in every respect. "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself." Just look into this revelation of His love. How everything is connected with Christ! He gave Himself for us. What was it for? "That he might present it to himself [not merely to the Father, but present it to himself] a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish." More than this; for "no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church." Everywhere Christ Jesus Himself is intermixed with every portion. He Himself is the beginning, He Himself the end, He Himself all the way through. He gave Himself as the beginning; and He presents it to Himself as the end. Meanwhile He tenderly cares for the church. "He that loveth his wife loveth himself; . . . for we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones." "This is a great mystery," he adds at the close; "but I speak as to Christ and as to the church."
Then we have the children, who are called to obey their parents in the Lord. It was not a question of the flesh: how could this be trusted? Let them obey in the Lord. To honour one's father and mother was both an obligation and had a special promise under law. And if children that had a relationship with their parents in the flesh and under law did so (for it was indeed right), how much more did it become Christian children to pay them reverence?
This is followed up by an exhortation to parents: "And ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." Thus is the Lord ever presented as the pattern. Then come the slaves similarly. He was privileged to do all as unto Christ; as the master again must remember that he had his own Master in heaven. This also answers to the grand doctrine of this epistle.
Then the apostle introduces us to another topic. It is not the source of the blessing (Ephesians 1:1-23); nor the place into which we are now brought as being made one with Christ (Ephesians 2:1-22); nor the objects to whom we are bearing testimony. (Ephesians 3:1-21) The closing theme shows us where and with whom are our true conflicts as Christians. As such we have not properly to fight with flesh at all, any more than to fight with the world. All other combats are outside the calling of a Christian.
I do not deny but that a Christian may slip elsewhere. But as long even as he is merely in conflict with his own nature, he can hardly be said to be on Christian ground at all. He may be a converted person; and God may be truly dealing with him in the way of gracious action. A really awakened soul may still have a great many unsettled questions in agitation within him. He has not come to God consciously. Now the very baptism of a Christian man is the confession of the truth, that God has in Christ judged flesh root and branch. Is not this the meaning of the institution? How far the person has realised it is another matter; but such is the meaning of baptism. Judging what I am, I confess that all my blessing is in the Saviour, who did not merely come to bless me as a living man in the world, but died and is risen again; and 1, confessing Him who is thus dead and risen, have part in His death. The conflict of the Christian is not therefore with flesh, still less is it with the world, but with Satan, and with his power, viewed as interposing and hindering our enjoyment of our heavenly blessing.
Is not this the meaning of the combat as described here? The wrestling is not with flesh and blood, "but against principalities, against powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against spiritual wickedness in heavenly places." The English translators did not know what to make of the apostle, and so they changed it to "high places," which was an unwarrantable liberty, and gives the most perverse meaning. This has misled many beside the poor Puritans, who fancied they were called of God, as a Christian duty, to strive against kings and all in authority, when not satisfied with their ways or measures. I mention this, because it is a striking proof that an error imported into Scripture leads even right-minded men into sad evil. It is expressly not against any powers that were living and acting in the world. The conflict is against Satan and his hosts. Just as the Canaanites tried to keep the Israelites out of the land which God assured Moses the tribes were to have for their possession, so Satan's great effort is to hinder the saints of God from realizing their blessedness in heavenly places.
But for this the most careful provision is laid on us. The first thing is to "be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might." That is, all our strength is to lean on another, even the Lord. The next thing is that we take "the whole armour of God, that we may be able to withstand in the evil day, and, having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth [inwardly applied, and thus bracing us morally], and having on the breast-plate of righteousness." The internal state is the great point here. Carefully remember this. Our standing is quite another matter, which itself could not avail here. The panoply is against Satan and not God. It is a question not of acceptance before God, but of resisting the enemy who would take advantage of loose ways and a bad conscience. The breast-plate means the practical righteousness of the saint himself. "And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace." So should our walk be. Besides, take "the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one." It is the confident trust of the heart in the favour of God in which we stand, not the remembrance of our first subjection to the gospel. Finally, "receive the helmet of salvation, [there the head is lifted up, not in presumption, but with none the less joy and courage,] and the sword of the Spirit," which is expressly said to be the word of God. The defensive comes before the offensive; and all should follow dependence on the Lord. The sword must be the real intrinsic power of the word wielded in the Spirit, which does not spare anything. Thus, first blessed, strengthened, and enjoying the grace and truth of God in Christ, we can then go out with the sword of the Spirit to deal with what is contrary to His nature, which Satan would use to obstruct our realization of our heavenly privileges.
Finally, there is the activity now for others, just as before there was dependence for ourselves. "Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints; and for me [as the apostle blessedly adds], that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel" (what a gracious way of encouraging and strengthening saints, giving them a feeling of the value of their prayers, both in the sight of God, and in fellowship with the most blessed apostle that God ever gave the church!) "for which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak." He felt his need and that of the work. Also he counted on their loving desire to know his affairs as well as to have their hearts comforted through Tychicus.
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Kelly, William. "Commentary on Ephesians 3:19". Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wkc/ephesians-3.html. 1860-1890.
the Second Week after Epiphany