Brief Notes on Ephesians and the Church at Thessalonica: Ephesians 2

Ephesians 2  •  9 min. read  •  grade level: 5
We have reached Ephesians 2, but we must look back at Ephesians 2 to resume the course of our thoughts. We were observing that we must distinguish between the heavenly calling and the church calling. The church has heavenly calling; but it does not follow that all who have heavenly calling have church calling. Heavenly calling arose from divine disappointment in the earth. The earth was given to Adam. Adam forfeited it, and the Lord then takes His elect to heaven.
The thought introduces you to the idea of relief.
The Lord found another way to bless His elect. If the earth is lost, where will He put His saints? The blessed God of all grace says, I know how I will dispose of them; I will put them in heaven. The Lord never merely repairs a breach; He brings a better thing out of the ruin. So the forfeiture of the earth opened heaven, and the heavenly man finds himself in a better place than if he had never lost the earth.
The two dealings of God with the earth are in government and in calling out — strangership and citizenship alternately. Citizenship when God is dealing with, and settling the earth; strangership when God is calling people out of it. He has now called the church into strangership. That is the way to introduce our thoughts to the present dispensation. We see how God has been put into His present dispensational attitude. The earth is polluted, and God is put upon to take Himself and His people to heaven. It is a dispensation of intense strangership. But the church is something more than that. Moses, Abraham, etc., were taken to heaven as witnesses of heavenly calling. Chapter 1 of this epistle introduces a new thought. We are not only in heaven, but in Christ in heaven. See how full the chapter is with the word "in." We are blessed in heavenly places in Christ — accepted in the Beloved.
God has chosen us in Him. In whom we have obtained an inheritance. We are raised in Christ. Seated in Him in heavenly places; and, when the world has told its story, you will find yourself a co-inheritor in Christ. That is a new thing; that is the body of Christ. That is one peculiarity of the church.
Let me call your thoughts a little aside. We see in the argument of the Galatians Abraham brought into our company; and in the argument of the Hebrews Abraham is brought into our company. Not so in the Ephesians. This is the divine accuracy of the Holy Spirit. In Galatians we do not get the church; we get sonship and heirship. I do not doubt that Abraham was as perfect as I am; but the moment the Spirit unfolds and displays the body of Christ Abraham has no place in the argument, we lose sight of him. I see you and myself, but not Abraham.
Is there not a meaning in these distinctions? Can I put myself in the presence of three such august witnesses to the mind of Christ and not see these things? I have no warrant for saying that Abraham takes a place in the church. Now, let me just ask you, Are you prepared for this? Is there any analogy in the divine dealings? I think there is. By-and-by the Lord will fill the whole face of the earth. All nations will bow to His scepter. The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. But is that all I get in the millennial earth? No: I get the twelve tribes in special nearness. I get the land of Israel in special relationship to God. And I get in the midst of the tribes a royal people, and a priestly people. This is further separation; and I get a Jerusalem. No one can read the prophetic letter and not see that Jerusalem will have her special place, seated in her beauty, "The Lord loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob." With that divine analogy I travel to the heavens. There will be beautiful varieties there — the noble army of martyrs, the goodly fellowship of the prophets. But, as Jerusalem will take the chief place on earth, so the church will take the chief place in heaven. So we may be prepared for what is revealed under the title of "the mystery."
Do you remember when Israel stood between the Red Sea and the hosts of Egypt what is said to them? "Stand still, and see the salvation of Jehovah." They had got from under the claims of the destroying angel. They were in the salvation of God; but God had secrets in the cloud not yet unfolded to them. There was a glory there that could scatter the hoof in the Red Sea. It could turn one side, and take the wheels off the Egyptian chariots. It could turn the other, and make crystal walls on either side of the Israelites. So, in standing before the Ephesians, we do not come to see justification by blood, but to let the rich purpose of God unfold itself to our gaze. How blessed are these divine ways! Are we satisfied to know the blood on the lintel has delivered us? All leans on that; but still I say, Stand by, and mark the secrets — go and inquire into the cloudy glory before you. This is just the attitude to take up in Ephesians.
Now mark this: the moment the history of Israel closed in the Babylonish captivity, the glory departed. The glory never went over to the Gentile. The sword went; the glory never. A great deal of your intelligence of scripture depends on your taking up a right attitude in presence of it. If you know what point you are standing on, it gives you a divine advantage. Now, in standing before Ezekiel, we see that the glory has gone up to heaven, and the sword has gone to the Gentile. Has the glory ever come back? It has; not to accompany the sword of Caesar, but shrouded in the humiliation of the Man of Nazareth. The sword had failed to keep the earth in order. We know where the glory dwells. It has not accompanied the sword of Caesar, as it did the sword of David and Solomon. The glory is as much apart from the sword now as when it went up before Ezekiel and the sword went to the Gentile. The powers that be are not ordained of Jesus; they are ordained of God as God. Power belongs to God in His supreme place. Jesus expresses God brought into certain conditions and relationships. All dignities belong to Jesus in title; but we could not look at Him yet and call Him King of kings, and Lord of lords. The epitome of the remnant’s religion is, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s." In a theocracy, Caesar and God are together. Now, I must recognize God’s domain and Caesar’s domain. I must take knowledge of the confusion, and not say that the glory is returned to link itself with the sword; or He who said, “Who made me a ruler or a judge? " would have been a very different person in this world.
Do you and I detect the unity and variety of the divine volume? It is a beautiful whole, but infinite in variety.
Thus, having seen our attitude, we are entering on the second chapter. We are let down a little here, but only to take up an important truth; to see out of what we are called. The chapter distinguishes itself into three parts. From verse 1 to 7 we have the subject of death and life; from verse 7 to 10 we have the subject of good works; and from verse 10 to the end, distance and nearness.
What manner of people were we when God took us up to baptize us into the body of Christ? Our condition was death — a profound moral ruin. What is the verdict that lies on us? "Dead in trespasses and sins." But, then, what condition are we brought into by Christ? The contrast is very fine. It is life of the highest order that has been imparted to us. We are linked with Christ Himself. How suitable, having shown us our high calling in the first chapter, to chew us in the second the place out of which we were called! Our death-estate in nature could not be lower; our life-estate in Christ could not be higher.
Another subject is good works, and I am charmed with the beauty of it. "Not of works, lest any man should boast."
As far as good works could have been the ground of boasting, they are shut out by Gad; but you are created of God in such a way that you must be bringing them forth. John’s epistle shows us the same thing; our very new creation secures them.
Then, to the end of the chapter we get the subject of alienation and nearness. This is just like death and life. Two things attach to us: in our own person, either death or life; in relation to God, either alienation or nearness. I look at myself, and see death in me, but as to life, I have been quickened with the highest form of life a creature could enjoy. So by nature nothing could be more distant than my alienation: "No hope, and without God in the world." Essentially cut off from Him, my nearness now in Christ is ineffable. It could not be more perfect. It is right we should have low thoughts of ourselves, but the value of Christ rests upon every stone of the temple. The whole temple is built in the Lord; and then, when built, what other glory is put upon it? The Holy Spirit dwells there.
Thus we have disposed of the first two chapters. The first unfolds our position in Christ; the second draws us aside to look at ourselves. He shows me first, in my own person, dead — then in alienation from God. Then He reverses it, and shows me what manner of life I have got, and what manner of nearness I have got; and there is not a single feeble thought in it. Have you feeble thoughts? They belong to nature. They are not the breathings of the Holy Spirit. They are not the counsels of God touching you. He is not weak when He delineates your condition in nature. He is equally strong when He delineates your condition in Christ Jesus.