As the Truth Is in Jesus

Ephesians 4‑5  •  27 min. read  •  grade level: 6
" The truth as it is in Jesus," is here connected with putting off the old man arid putting on the new; for you cannot have the practice of the Christian life, without the life itself. But having life, the commonest duties are connected with this truth of the body of Christ. For example, Lie not one to another! because "members one of another." This is the secret of the elevation of a Christian's conduct.
All our duties flow from our relationships. A child's duties result from what he is to his father; the wife's to the husband, &c. A Christian is put in the most responsible relation; and his highest privilege is to have the Lord brought into everything, because thus his affection to Christ is tested in all. The precept which forbids my purloining in a house, brings God to remembrance. (Titus 2:1010Not purloining, but showing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things. (Titus 2:10).) We have our place in Christ before God; and God has his place in us before men; so that whatever does not suit the presence of God, does not suit a Christian.
The first effect of the presence of God is to annihilate a man. Therefore in ver. 2, in connection with walking worthy of the high vocation, it is "with all lowliness and meekness." Then another thing follows-long-suffering and forbearance. There is to be no hurry with our brethren. In this chapter, up to ver. 6, we are all alike addressed; afterward, according to the sovereign Will of God, given to individuals.
The expression, "That he might fill all things" (ver. 10,) shows that faith cannot look out on a place which divine love and righteousness have not filled. He has come down in love, and gone up in righteousness.
" Perfecting of the saints," (ver. 12,) refers to them individually; "Edifying of the body," collectively. I can use my members as servants, but the moment I make them anything else but servants, it is sin. When man fell, he was under the evil. Now we are to be over the evil, "renewed after God." "And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness."
The character of the Epistle to the Ephesians is peculiar in one remarkable point, it sets the Church, already so entirely in Christ the Head, that it does not speak of the coming of the Lord. The reason of this is evident: it supposes the Church to be with Christ. It ever views the Church in the Head. First, as to its testimony: " That now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God." 2. As to blessing: "Blessed with all spiritual blessings, in heavenly places in Christ." 3. As to where we are, "quickened together with Christ, and raised up together, and made sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." 4. As to conflict: "Wrestling against spiritual wickedness in heavenly places."
If I look at the Lord as coming for the saints, I see them distinct from Him. Individually we are so of course, and waiting for Him. If I am here, and He is there, we are two and not one. But the truth, in this Epistle, rises higher, never looking at the saints as apart from, but as in Christ. The whole body is ever so connected with the Head, by the power of the Spirit, that they cannot be separated. "Members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones." "No man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church." Thus, then, in Ephesians, whether it is blessing, testimony, conflict, or where we are, all is heavenly; and the measure and standing of our conduct ought to be the heavenly man. "As the truth is in Jesus."
In chapter 1 the counsels of God are considered. Chapter 2—His power to us-ward who believe. Chapter 3—the character of His blessing to the Gentiles. Chapter 4—the character of the saints as the body of Christ in heaven, and as the habitation of the Spirit down here. Also the practice becoming such. In chap. 5, which we are upon, we have the exercise of Christ's love towards those so united to Him.
It is not only what is the place of God that we need to know, but what is the exercise of Christ's affections towards us in that place. So here, it is not the plans and thoughts of grace that are presented to us, but the exercise of grace. It shows us the way Christ feels in His relationship to us.
Whatever we are, divine teaching ever connects the commonest details of ordinary life with the highest privileges. That which loosens the bonds of common life is not the testimony of God. Whatever are the privileges of the saints they are brought to the light; and it is by the light everything is tested. Truth always fortifies conscience in a man, in His common-place duties. Of course I mean a just conscience, for there may be a morbid conscience. The truth would ever lead to the fulfillment of those common duties, which all own to be duties.
Again, wherever the grace and love of God act on a saint, they always go back To GOD. The incense in the holy place always ascended, but the fragrance was not for the priests, but for God. It was burnt entirely for God, but the sweet savor was diffused all around. Whatever Christ did He did to God, and it was a sweet savor. If it is not so with us it is nothing but selfishness.
Christ loved us, and gave Himself for us. Here is the greatest act of love to us: but it was "a sacrifice to God, for a sweet smelling savor." (ver. 2.) Love cannot come down and act in this heavenly, this perfect man, without its perfection being Godward. Love having God ever before it, can go on ever according to the mind of God, amidst all opposition. In its perfectness, however, this could be found only in Christ. We have it, but it is mingled with much failure.
Love, however, comes down from God, and must return to God. We know how self-applause, and how many mixed motives creep in with us, afterward, if not at the time. But oh! how earnestly should we seek that our motives may be single to Godward. It is a dreadful thing for the grace which God has given to be used for SELF. Never did Christ seek His own glory. It was always His Father's glory that He sought. It is indispensable for internal holiness, (I speak not of external) to have the heart exercised about this.
All our privileges bring us to God. God has a certain character, and He cannot allow anything unsuitable to that. "Ye were darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord." It is not, we have got light, but we are light. The very nature is light. Darkness and light can never be together. This broad truth is laid down in ver. 5, but it rests not here. It adds (ver. 6) " Because of these things the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience," or unbelief.
Mark, how unbelief is the root of all sin. It is not the only sin; but all sins deny the character of God. In ver. 8, it is said, " Ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord."
This principle having been laid down, we have the measure and standard of this light (ver. 14) even Christ Himself.
"Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light." Christ is the standard, you are asleep a little, not dead actually, but practically as if dead. Let me awake, then, and get all I can in Christ. But what do I get in Christ? Everything! This awakening does not mean the conscience merely, for the avoiding certain things, but it is the getting Christ Himself formed in us. While I have the nature I have also Christ the object before me, and He is light 1 Light is before my soul, as well as within my soul; Christ is my life, and I get in Christ divine perfection, as well as life.
Christ shall give thee light. Let us take one instance. People think it a great matter if a man has what they call a fine fortune left him But Christ says, "How hardly shall they that have riches, enter into the kingdom of God." "A man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesses." "Woe to them that are rich!" Riches may be the ruin of a man. Is' that light?
"See that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise." (ver. 15.) There is not only to avoid certain things, but there is something to be gained. Divine wisdom to live Christ. We have to walk with all the wisdom of God. Satan is seeking to trip us up; to dim our testimony; to cause that to be seen in us which is not Christ. We are called in a world that is against us, to be waiting every opportunity to seize it for Christ. We are to live Christ before the world. That is what is meant by wisdom and redeeming the time. It is not merely not wasting it, but seizing it for Christ. The devil seeks to pre-occupy men's thoughts and affections; but we want to redeem time from this, by seeking every opportunity of introducing Christ.
" Be filled with the Spirit." (ver. 18.) Nothing but the Spirit-a vessel filled with one thing-the Holy Ghost, the spring and source in the soul, of all you do. If it be so Christ will be the subject. The Spirit may give understanding, and the mind still be working; but when "filled with the Spirit," the whole man becomes the instrument in His hands, so that he thinks, feels, utters, only what the Spirit gives. I speak here only of power, not of revelation. Thus, filled with the Spirit, the flesh would not meddle with the things of God. But too often we mix up our own thoughts, and we introduce things at the wrong time. We want to be as clay molded by Him.
What a deliverance is this from self! What a consciousness of the power of God in us, when thus filled with the Spirit! All must acknowledge how little there is of this in us, and how all is so mingled! so little of the complete setting aside of all that is of man! If we fail the conscience has to be dealt with; but our normal condition is to be walking with God, " filled with the Spirit."
Our proper joy also is in God. " Singing and making melody in your hearts to the Lord" (ver. 19), while looking up or looking down, giving thanks to God and the Father! What, for tribulation? Yes! because the Spirit gives me to see God in the tribulation. Filled with the Spirit, I am ever giving thanks to God. See how Christ rejoices in spirit, saying, "I thank thee, O Father," (Matt. 11) when, as to circumstances of sorrow around, His heart was breaking. The secret of this was, that while grieved with Israel's rejection of Him, He was in perfect communion with His Father, and with the glorious thoughts of God about His Son.
Very often the flesh is not broken down enough to make a man take the place and walk in the truth which God Himself has revealed to the soul. Thus it was with Peter (Matt. 16:17,2317And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 16:17)
23But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savorest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men. (Matthew 16:23)
), though he had just made the blessed confession of Christ which the Father had revealed to him, when the Lord spoke of His path of humiliation, as the Christ, " the Son of the living God," before the Jews, Peter could not bear it, and beseeches Him not to speak thus. Peter's flesh was not broken down enough to walk in the power of the truth he had received and rejoiced in. So it is with us.
But now we pass to God's revelation of what Christ is in His relationship to His body the Church. As in Rom. 8 it is in the first part of the chapter God in us; and in the latter part God FOR us. So here God speaks of what Christ is for the Church. The spring of all is Christ's love. "He LOVED the church." God showed Him that pearl of great price. Christ must have it, though He give HIMSELF for it! All that Christ is in the perfection of His holiness, wisdom, and grace-all that is Himself-all that He gave for the Church! The shedding of His blood is not spoken of here. Not only what He had did He give-not His life only, but Himself. A man cannot give more than Himself. Thus wholly is Christ ours by divine gift and according to the perfectness with which GOD gives. Christ loved the Church; but having a bride, He must have her according to His own mind. He does not sanctify her first, and then make her His own; but He makes her His own in order to sanctify her. (See ver. 25, 26.) Hence the washing of water by the Word. The written Word is the mind of God. Thus Christ gives the expression of His own heart and mind to the Church, in the Word, in order to make it like Himself. " Sanctify them through thy truth! Thy word is truth." This testimony to all that God is in Christ is applied to the Church to conform her to Himself. God must have the Lamb's wife like Himself. Even nature teaches this, and thus Christ applies the Word which is the revelation of God in Christ in order to bring us into this likeness to Himself and to cause God's thoughts to be ours. (See chap. i. 2, 3.) " Holy and without blame before him in love"-this is what GOD is, and this is what the love of Christ is doing for the Church, " that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word." The Word cleanses a man's affections; and not only cleanses, but the end is to make glorious. Even now the glory shines in on us, and we are changed from glory to glory. Thus the apostle saw the light-the light of Christ-at the end, and each step as he approached he got more of that light. The power of the glory is applied by Christ through the Word. Christ must have the Church FOR HIMSELF. We get this principle in Canticles; not that I think we have the Church in Canticles, but the Jewish remnant; still we get the principle of Christ's love there. The first thought is having got Christ, but then follows, " I am my beloved's and his desire is towards me." I belong to CHRIST. It is a remarkable and beautiful expression in Gen. 2:2222And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. (Genesis 2:22) with reference to Eve as a type of the Church. The Lord God builded (see margin) a woman. The Lord presents this woman to Adam. The second Adam, being the Lord God, presents this glorious Church to Himself without spot. All the perfection of God became man in order that He might be satisfied as to His Church. Ah, here the heart gets happy and humble! It is when I am dependent on the affections of another that my heart gets humbled and learns to rest in a sanctified way upon the object of affection. Our hearts
no longer thirst. (See John 4:1616Jesus saith unto her, Go, call thy husband, and come hither. (John 4:16).) We get our life out of Christ. (Gal. 2:2020I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20).) The life that I live, I live by the faith of the Son of God. All through this time of our weakness we have the unceasing love of One who nourishes and cherishes us as His own flesh; and there is a kind of blessed necessity for this. No man ever yet hated his own flesh, but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord, the Church, for we are members of His body, &c. (Ver. 28.) It is most sweet to take the motives of our duties from the pattern we have in Christ. There is not one relationship owned by God for which we fail to find a pattern in the things of God. In this passage it is the devotedness of love. It is not the blood, but all the perfect, the precious, tender, unceasing care of love, (of His love who gave Himself, for us,) until He shall present us to Himself a glorious church, holy and without blemish. How our hearts need to be learning more of this love of Christ which passeth knowledge!
Nothing seemed to be a greater burden on the heart of Paul than to keep the saints up to their privileges. The Hebrews saw that Christ had died for them, though that had not the power over them which it ought to have had; but they were risen with Him also. They were in Christ in heavenly places within the veil, and the question was, were they realizing that.
There is great force in the expression he uses in chap. v. 6, "ye are become, such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat." "Are become" marks the process by which they had reached the state they were in.
Freshness of affection, and quickness of understanding go together. There is less spring, less apprehension, less clearness when our hearts are not happy. On the other hand, my judgment is clear when my affections are warm. Motives that acted before cease to be motives when my affections are, warm.
Freshness of affection being lost, the Hebrews were " dull of hearing;" and so were " become such as had need of milk, and not of strong meat." And then the apostle explains that those who use " milk" are unskillful in the word of righteousness and are babes; while " strong meat" belongs to those, not who have made great progress, but who are of full age,-men in the truth in opposition to being children or babes,-and who have " their senses exercised to discern both good and evil."
But how can I separate the " knowledge of good and evil" from the knowledge of Christ. If I were to try to separate between them of myself, shutting Christ out, how could I? He is my standard of good; and it is what I find in Him that gives me power to judge what is evil. How can I walk as He, walked without Him? "Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, (or the word of the beginning of Christ,) let us go on to perfection."
Instead of wasting your time with what has passed away, go on to the full revelation of Christ. Be at home there, and understanding what the will of the Lord is. For how can I walk as He walked without Him? I know not how to attempt it. The secret of everything is found in that truth, " Ye are complete in him." As Christ Himself also has said, " At that day ye shall know that I am in the Father, and ye in me." But what is that? and where is Christ now? In heaven. Then I am there too, and my affections should be there also. My hope is to be thoroughly identified with Him. For the portion I have is what He has-life, glory, all that He has risen to-and all my associations are with Himself. There is the difference between " the principles of the doctrine of Christ" and the full perfection. Of Christ Himself it is said, (chap. 5:9,) " Being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation to all them that obey him."
Now He was not made perfect down here, but in being glorified in heaven. He went through the experience down here; as it is said, " He learned obedience by the things which he suffered," and then went into heaven, to be Priest, because our blessings and associations and hopes are all up there. He is "made perfect" as our High Priest in heaven and not down here. He had not received that point in the counsels of God, in glory, when He was down here. Now He is there He has associated me with Himself in that place. I can see that Christ has been through this world so as to be able to sympathize with me in all my sorrows and all my trials; and He has also borne my sins in His own body on the tree. But where is He now? He is in heaven; and I am there too in spirit, and He will soon bring me there in fact. Where He is, is His being "made perfect." The work is done, and now He is showing me the effect of its being done; and is teaching me the walk that belongs to the redemption He has wrought out. He has taken my heart and associated me with Himself, and He says that is the perfection I am to go on to.
Where did Paul see Christ? Not on earth; for long after He had left the earth he was a persecutor; but he saw Him, as we all know, in heavenly glory. His only knowledge of Christ at all was of a Christ in heaven. His course on earth He might learn; but the revelation of Christ that brought his soul in to the presence of God in the power of an accomplished redemption, was the revelation of Christ in heaven and in glory. Hence he says, "Though we had known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more." The Christ he wanted to "win," (as he says in Phil. 3) was a glorified Christ. It may cost me my life, but never mind. That is my object; after that I am reaching. I am alive from the dead, because Christ is; and I want to lay hold of that for which Christ has laid hold of me. I am not in the flesh, but in Christ. I have the consciousness that this work of Christ has put me in a new place, (not yet glorified in body, but) in a new place as to my life and associations and home; and this is the perfection we are to go on to.
It was this that ruled the apostle's affections, as he says, " that I may win Christ." This was his object, to " bear the image of the heavenly." His mind was full of it. The Holy Ghost has come down to bring all these things to our remembrance. Believers are united to Christ in glory. It is never said that Christ is united to man; but believers are united to Christ. Then the apostle was living by the power of the Holy Ghost; so that one may conceive what a trial it was to him to see these people going back to the first principles. They were all true, but if people stop there they stop short of a glorified Christ. To the Galatians he says, " who hath bewitched you?" because of himself he says, " I knew a man in Christ." " A man in Christ" is a man risen out of all that connects itself with the law and ordinances, as well as with sin and death, and all that is sorrowful or attractive in this present evil world. His spirit is broken to find the saints resting with things on earth about Christ. The Holy Ghost was come from heaven to make them partakers of a heavenly calling; to associate them in heart and mind with Christ, and to show them things which would not only keep them from "the evil which is in the world," but from the world itself.
The Hebrews had a temple standing when Paul wrote, where Christ, Himself, had been. Why, then, should they have left it, if Christ had not judged the flesh, and shown that " they that are in the flesh cannot please God?" "The middle wall" had been put up by God, Himself; how should they dare to break it down, if God had not done it? If God had not said that He would not have to do with flesh any more, bow could they dare to leave the camp, and go outside? CHRIST GLORIFIED is the end of all the first principles, and we have to go through the world as strangers and pilgrims. The only thing God ever owned in religion was Jewish, which had to do with the flesh-with men here in the world-but that is gone by the cross. All is crucified; "the handwriting of ordinances" has been blotted out-"nailed to the cross"-and thus taken out of the way; and in a glorified Christ we see the end of all that is abolished. Henceforth our life, our home, our associations, are all in Christ.
But the doctrine of the beginning of Christ was not that.
What do we find as long as Christ was upon earth? Why the testimony of the law and the prophets, which taught righteousness and called the nation to repentance and faith. Christ Himself also speaks of a judgment to come, which they believed. The Pharisees believed in a resurrection of the dead. Baptisms or washings and the laying on of hands, they had them. They constituted the elements of a worldly religion, and were sanctioned by God until the cross. The Messiah coming on earth is the "doctrine of the beginning of Christ;" but now I leave that and go on to perfection. I do not deny these things, but I go on to the fuller revelation of Christ. These first principles are all true, but then I have other and far better things.
Saul might have been the brightest saint going under the old order of things, but not knowing Christ. But supposing a person got into the heavenly things and was "enlightened" and had "tasted the heavenly gift, and was made partaker of the Holy Ghost, and had tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come," and then gave it up-what could he do then? What else was there to present to such an one? There might have been a going on from faith, in an humbled Christ to a glorified Christ, but there is nothing beyond. For it should be observed there is nothing of life signified here. The expressions do not go beyond the indication of truth that might be received by the natural mind, and the demonstrative power of the Holy Ghost, which persons might partake of, as Scripture shows, without being participators in eternal life.
There may be light in a sense without the smallest trace of life, of which Balaam is an example. Of the stony ground hearers also it is said concerning the word that " anon with joy they received it "-they " tasted the good word of God." Moreover, Judas could cast out devils as well as the rest: he was a partaker of these "miracles of the coming age." And Christ had said (Matt. 7:2222Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? (Matthew 7:22)) " Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name cast out devils? and in thy name have done many wonderful works?" Still they are disowned of Christ as "workers of iniquity."
But there is this farther in the case supposed: " They had crucified the Son of God afresh," by turning back again from these heavenly things, and therefore could not be renewed to repentance. The nation had indeed crucified Christ, but they did not know what they were doing. This could not be said of those of whom the apostle is speaking. This was not ignorance, but will.
There is a great difference in what is expressed by " anon with joy they received it," and the word plowing up the soul-giving the sense of sin and bringing into subjection to God's redemption. The result of life is seen in fruit, not in power. In the parable of the sower the seed received into good ground " brought forth fruit." In the other cases there was "no fruit brought to perfection." If there is any fruit, the tree is not dead. Hence the apostle says, " We are persuaded better things of you, and things that accompany salvation." These were not power merely nor joy; for these might exist and there be no life. Judas could cast out devils as well as the rest; but Jesus said, " Rejoice not that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven." The connection of your heart with Christ-the consciousness of God having written your name in heaven is the blessed thing. The fruit which the apostle takes notice of, in ver. 10, is love to the brethren. This was there, and showed itself in the active ministering to the saints, out of love to the Lord's name; while full assurance of hope to the end was to be desired. There might be working of miracles without knowing or being known of God; but fruit-bearing in grace is the token of being branches of the true vine.
In the example of Abraham, the apostle presents an encouragement to their faith, which needed to be strengthened. Abraham had the promise of God, and he believed it; he had His oath, and he trusted it: but we have more. It is not to us that God presents a promise of future blessings, and adds an oath to assure us of their accomplishment; but He has performed all that He calls us to believe. We have a redemption now in the presence of God. Christ, having wrought the work, is sitting down in the presence of God, and in spirit has brought us there. But we have more than that-for, in hope, we are partakers of all the glory which belongs to that redemption. We have life, redemption, the Holy Ghost as the seal; and more. The forerunner is gone in, and the Holy Ghost gives us the consciousness of our union with Him, and not merely that our sins are put away through the blood-shedding of Christ. We have the Spirit in virtue of Christ's redemption, and He is come to tell us that we are in that Christ, who wrought the redemption, and is now in the power of an endless life within the veil.
But what is the practical consequence of all this? Why, if the glory He has is mine, and I am going on after Him, then all the world is but dross and dung in my esteem. This will be faith's estimate of everything in the world, when Christ is filling the heart's affections, and when the soul is pressing on after Him, in the certain hope of being forever with Him. One moment's real apprehension of Christ in the glory is sufficient to dim the brightness and glitter of every earthly thing; but the soul must be occupied alone with Christ for this.
If our affections and desires are lingering on earth, or stopping short of a glorified Christ in heaven, as the one in whom our life is hid, and to whom we are presently to be conformed in glory, and that in the glory where He is, we shall find soon that earthly things are something more than dross and dung. Leave a stone on the ground for a time and you will find that it will gradually sink into it. And our hearts, if they are not practically in heaven with Christ, will soon become attached to earthly things.
There is a constant tendency in earthly things to press down the affections. Duties are more apt to lead away the soul from God than open sin. Many a Christian has been ensnared by duties, whose heart would have shrunk from open sin. But we have only one duty in all the varying circumstances of life-to serve Christ. And we should remember that if things on earth are dark and the heart is tested in journeying through the world, all on the side of God is bright. " Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection."