Brief Notes on Ephesians and the Church at Thessalonica: Ephesians 4

Ephesians 4  •  10 min. read  •  grade level: 6
I observed that the doctrinal part of the epistle closes at Ephsians 4:16. We will read to the end of the chapter. Let us just retrace the doctrinal teaching of the epistle. The first grand characteristic we are given about the calling of the church is, that it is a calling in Christ. So we find in Ephesians 1 the word "in" abounds. "Seated in heavenly places in Him," "Accepted in the Beloved," and so forth, and it is not only present possessions in Christ, but our interest in Him was before the world began (vs. 4), and after the world closes (vs. 11). You will tell me all the ransomed rest on sovereignty, and so they do, and the very angels, too, who kept their first estate; but the character of church — election is that it is not mere abstract election, but election "in Him," and you never leave Him.
The church finds herself in closest connection with Christ from before the foundation of the world till the glory after the world has run its course. This is the first thought about the church. These things are not predicated of Israel. It is the peculiar calling of the church to be linked and bound up with Christ. Then this church has been "hid in God." It was, so to speak, God’s bosom secret, the secret that lay nearest to His heart and deepest in His counsels. We do not find the election of the worthies of old spoken of in that way of mysterious beauty and intimacy. It was hid in God from all ages up to the ministry of Paul.
The Epistle to the Ephesians is an instance of accumulation of language. Language grows on the thoughts of the Spirit Himself. Will you tell me, if your soul is bubbling up with some commanding thought, that you will not tell it out again and again, multiply words about it, and even become eloquent? For the heart, not the head, is the parent of eloquence. That is the style of the Spirit in bringing out this secret in this epistle. We get "the praise of His glory," and "the riches of the glory," and "the praise of the glory of His grace," and "the exceeding riches of His grace." So in Ephesians 2 when He comes to show those who are the objects of this calling. When He shows their death-estate, description after description is given of them; and when you are brought to see your nearness, again the Spirit multiplies descriptions of what you are.
The consummation of revelation waited on Paul’s ministry, the Gentile apostle. When he brought out this secret, it was the last in the revelation of God, and it was the crown of all the divine purposes. Let me refer you to a little analogy: how did the work of the old creation proceed? One thing after another was created in its beauty, and man came at the last. He was put in the garden; and what was his condition there? He was at home there; but when the cattle were brought up to be named by him, he was not only at home in his own proper place, but he gets the lordship of everything before him. He was in his dominions. Was that all? There remained a thing behind, and that thing was the chiefest. He had everything before he got the woman. It was the last thing revealed, and the tip-top of his happiness. It opened his lips, "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." Adam was happy before, but he was not abounding. When the woman was given to him, it was the height of his joy. So we ought to be prepared for the church waiting for the ministry of Paul. I should be prepared for the last ministry bringing out the richest thing in the counsels of God.
I get the same thing in the story of Jerusalem. When Israel went into Canaan, the sword of Joshua reduced the land to their possession. So it went on in the days of the Judges; and in the days of King Saul they still remained in possession; but all that time Jerusalem was a Jebusite city; all through that season this favored spot, this chief spot in the land — this queen, destined to fix the eye of God — was in the clutches of the Gentile; and it was not till the days of David, God’s own king, that it became the chief absorbing center of everything in the land, the sanctuary, the throne, the place where the tribes went up. It was the chiefest of everything, and it came last. Do we not get there an image of Ephesian truth? God delights Himself in analogies. What are parables but divine analogies? And so, in the very end of the book, we see the woman reappearing as the last and chiefest. The victories have been won — the kingdom seated in dignity; the very last thing in the book is the revelation of the church coming down to show herself in her beauty (Rev. 21) So I am prepared to listen to Paul, without charging him with arrogancy, when he says he fills out the word of God.
Again, the revelation of the church is the richest display of God in grace, glory, and wisdom. The calling of Israel was a rich display of Him. Be it so. God cannot put His hand to anything without displaying Himself thus. But when we come to listen to the mystery of the church, the body and bride of Christ, we are instructed to know that grace, in its glory, in its riches — in its exceeding riches — has been manifested, and manifested in the face of creation — in the hearing and seeing of principalities and powers in heavenly places; and there is a simplicity about all this. Does magnificence touch simplicity? It would not be simply divine if it were not unutterably glorious. If it lay deepest in the divine mind, it was most full of grace, glory, and wisdom. Principalities and powers shall hold their breath while listening to the story that the calling of the church is rehearsing.
Now, what are its titles? It is called the body and the bride; and what do they mean? The body is the expression of this — that the church is set in the highest place of dignity. As the bride she is set in the nearest place of affection. As the body of Christ, occupying the chiefest point in dignity, all that is in this world and in that which is to come will be beneath her. He will be seated above all; and the church, which is His body, is the fullness of Him that filleth all in all. As the bride she will be in the nearest place of affection. You cannot be too near to the person you love. As the bride of Christ, the church is set close to His heart. The church is destined to be to the heart of Christ what the woman was to Adam. Chapter 5. is as the utterance of Adam over the woman. "We are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones," is a re-echoing of the ecstatic utterance of the first man over the first woman.
If we love a person, we love to see them in dignity and glory. There you are set in the tip-top place of dignity, and, as the bride, in the nearest place of affection. You might be surprised to hear me say that the Lord Jesus did not complete the revelation of God. When you read the four gospels, do you read them as the full picture of gospel grace? The Lord’s ministry was a transitional time. Till His death was accomplished He had not the platform for the display of full gospel grace, or the instrument for forming the church. How could you form a thing without the instrument? The Spirit was not given; and the Head was not yet glorified. The opening of the book of God prepares me for the mystery, and the close of the book shuts me up to it, and seals it on my apprehension, as we now see.
But in the Epistle to the Ephesians we get not merely the church but saints individually (Chapers 5 and 6). We do not lose our personality. This is said to be the meaning of Ephesians 4:1212For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: (Ephesians 4:12). That is an individual thing. The business of gifts is with you individually:
"He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints." There is a deep intimacy and personality between me and Christ that nothing can ever touch. So the first business of gifts was with each individually, "For the perfecting of the saints." Then, let the perfected saints set themselves to the work of the ministry, and to the edifying of the body. Consequently, in Corinthians, when he had the mystery to bring out, he says, "We speak wisdom among them that are perfect." So, when we come to practical details in our chapter, we are addressed individually, "That ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk" (vs. 17), and so on; "Who being past feeling" (vs. 19), that is, a seared and hardened conscience, with no sense of their own lasciviousness. "But ye have not so learned Christ; if so be that ye have heard Him, and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus."
The introduction of the word Jesus here shows personality; and do you not love a personal lesson? Do you not delight to think that you and Christ have a business that none can interfere with? Look at John’s gospel as a beautiful picture of the sinner and Christ together. We do not find the Lord in John as a social man, working with apostles. He works alone with the sinner. It is very sweet to see the Spirit refusing to lose sight of the individual. "And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness." This is a much richer creation than the first. Adam was the only object in the first creation that carried an understanding; but you could not say he was created "after God, in righteousness and true holiness."
We are told to put away lying, as being members one of another. "Be ye angry, and sin not." Anger may be as holy a feeling as any other, but do not retain it so as to let it degenerate into nature. Then we are to "resist the devil," and "Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor...that he may have to give to him that needeth." This is very beautiful. He is not merely to cease from stealing, but to become a workman for others. “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth...and grieve not the holy Spirit of God." Our works are looked at and our words, and now our tempers.
Are you not thankful that Christianity legislates for every bit of you? But what dignity! Your lips may be employed in communicating grace to the hearers; and your thoughts, either in refreshing or grieving the Holy Spirit of God!
"Forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you." This is a change from “The Lord’s Prayer." There you are ‘instructed to know that God will measure Himself by you: "Forgive...as we forgive." Here is quite the reverse; I am to measure myself by God: "forgiving, as God hath forgiven you." This shows, as we were observing before, that the Lord’s ministry was a transitional thing; it had not come out into the full glory of salvation. Now a ministry has gone forth for the perfecting of us individually, and for our edification as the body of Christ.