Lecture 2 on the Epistle to the Ephesians

Ephesians 2:4  •  12 min. read  •  grade level: 6
is in my heart to speak to you a few words upon the mercy of God. One of the great difficulties in connection with such a subject is its exceeding fullness. One hardly knows where to begin. God is rich, in mercy. It is not only the wealth of the mercy of God, but that mercy is part of His character, a part of His very nature of which He cannot divest Himself The very context illustrates what God's rich mercy is. In chapter 1:20-23, we are shown the Lord Jesus Christ raised up to His own right hand, now sitting there, and in everything God marking all His delight being found in that Man who is with Him on the throne. A mere man could not sit on the throne of God, but this One is such an One that He is placed there on the throne, raised up by God Himself, " far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come." Go all through the present age, and you will find nothing to be compared with what that Man has got. There is nothing in this age, or in the age to come, that is not His, and all things must be put under His feet. And not only so, but there is new glory. The earth-rejected One-God has seated Him at His own right hand as Head of the body. And while He sits there, a body is being formed down here which, to the mind of God, will be a body proper to such a Head in the glory.
But if we follow Him, we shall find more glories still put on Him. He created all things. If the character of God is to be shown forth down here, who but that Son could show it, so that all who saw Him, saw the Father? If it were redemption, none could touch it save that Son; if it be the setting up of a kingdom, He is the only one to be King; but not to be a King on earth, but reigning over the earth, surrounded by a heavenly people, after putting on them all His own beauty. Is it a fact that Jesus of Nazareth is at rest on the throne of His Father, all honor, and power, and glory, His, and that He is forming for Himself, whilst there, a people to present to Himself without spot or wrinkle? What brilliancy of light the apostle points us to! And then he puts before us the quarry whence the Lord is picking up those whom He is going to fashion for such glory.
What a contrast to the beginning of the chapter is this -Satan having got the mastery over the mind of man, and no one found in nature not subject to these lusts, and Christ, in all dominion, power, and glory, looking down and forming of these a body fit to be taken up there! And the apostle could say, " He has enabled you Ephesians and me, Paul, the persecutor and blasphemer, to know that we are some of these; not looked on by God according to the pit, the miry clay, the lusts in which we wallowed, but according to this union with the Son up there, as those quickened together with Christ." But I not only think of Paul and these Ephesians but of myself. I know the pit whence I was taken, and I can only account for it by saying, " Ah! it was God, rich in mercy, who picked me up, and made me to be one with Christ."
Do we as individuals know this doctrine? God not only a God of life, but this living God having a certain character of His own, on the ground of which He took up persons dead in sins, raised them up, and made them sit in heavenly places in Christ. If so, it must be all on His part. It is not of him that runneth, nor of him that willeth, but of Him that showeth mercy. There is no dealing of God before the day of Pentecost, in which mercy is put out in so marked a way, as from that time to the day when Christ will come to take His people up. It is mercy, rich mercy, from the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ-mercy to Jews, and to these poor unclean heathen, mercy not only taking poor sinners out of everything they were in, connected with lusts and death, but mercy coming to take them up out of it all to a place inside heaven, fitting them for a place in God's house.
"God rich in mercy for His great love wherewith He loved us," &c. This expressing God's wealth of mercy is here in contrast to grace. By grace we are saved through faith; but mercy is connected with giving those who are dead in sins lip; and grace again with holiness, through faith (God's gift) in the atonement. One of the most vivid places in which mercy is referred to is in Ex. 33. Paul, when arguing with Israel in Romans states that all are included as guilty that God may have mercy on all, not on the ground of their obedience, but on that of His mercy. (See chap. 9:15, 16.) " I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy," &c. It does not come forth from him that runneth or willeth, but from God. It is something rising from God, and flowing from Him. Turning to Ex. 32, we find that Moses had been called up into the mount for the ordering of the tabernacle. No sooner is Moses there than the people show that they are tired of being God's people. They cry out, " Make us gods which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him;" and all their trumpery ornaments, nose-rings, &c., are given to make a god. They turn their back on the living God, saying, "Now we have got a god of our own making, and we do not want to know Him." What a thing, to turn the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made with hands! Moses pleads for them; he knows the value of an appeal in God's mind. The Lord hears it, and spares. Moses then says, " Show me thy glory." The Lord answers, " I will make all My goodness pass before thee." " Israel shall not escape; they think they can make a calf of gold, and despise me. They do not know Me; I shall have mercy on whom I will have mercy." Mercy is the prerogative of God. Though there has been the denial of everything, and the setting up of a false god, yet mercy can flow out to meet it; but the sole and only One it can flow from is this God, and none but this God.
Who can say to God, " What doest Thou?" Did you ever call upon God to reckon with you? Is God the only Being who is not to have a will of His own? He laughs and mocks at those who would bring Him down to their level. What He says, He will do; " He will have mercy on whom He will have mercy." Am I to say that mercy will not do for me? God came out there in His fullest character as the God rich in mercy, the only Being who could, and who can, have the right to have mercy on whom He will. How could I look at any of you, and say that you are like Christ? Christ will have you apart from all that you are. God sees you the very opposite of what He is; but He says, " I am determined to have them; I will have My own way; I can use that wealth of mercy which I rest in up here, for the chiefest of rebels that can be found down there." Why did He look on me when I was dead in trespasses? Because He had a right to pick me up, and give me life. Power is one thing, and the character of Him that uses it another. Satan has power, and he uses it by lies which lead souls to destruction. Ah I but God has a character of His own. I rest on the individuality of God. God always acts without consulting any other individual. Whom did He consult when He created the world? Whom, when He proposed that His only Son should conic down to die? Whom when, after seven thousand years of man's rebellion on this little globe, He purposes to make new heavens and a new earth? Nobody. And when He said, " Ah! you did not look to or own Me as God; you were dead in sins, and I quickened you "-did He consult anybody? No; and now He is bringing one bit of truth after another into my soul; and when He takes up souls He consults nobody, and if any come into collision with Him they must be swept away. There is that entire individuality about God, and a character of His own, that regulates all His acts. And this is so sweet in Ex. 33, where He says to Moses, " My glory is too great a sight for you to look into; you must be put in the cleft of the rock, covered with My hand whilst My glory passes by; but all My goodness shall pass before you, and I will proclaim My name, the name of the Lord before you." " I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy to whom I will show mercy."
How beautifully God's character shines out in that authoritative, "I will show mercy on whom I will show mercy." Israel shall know this mercy (and in the end Israel shall know it). All its springs are in Him. Has He a character of His own? And are you because of that like one at rest in heaven where the Lord Jesus Christ is, blest according to His merit, with all blessings in heavenly places? If I come to what is in self, I find nothing but what is of the first creation; but if I come to the new creation, I meet what God has created in Christ Jesus. I see Him set up there as the slain Lamb, my accepted sacrifice; all blessings due to Him, and the curse due to me, but it was borne by Him. What right have I to go where the glory of God is? Moses had to be hidden in the rock, because he could not see it; but I can go, just as I am, into the full blaze of it. Ah! but only in Him, who is seated at that right hand-not in my own name, but in His. If in my own, I could not come, but I dare not show any hesitancy; I have perfect acceptance there, not on the ground of what I am, but on that of being one with Him who is the perfect expression of God's love. I can go in there with His acceptancy. Is there one affection of your heart that does not find a perfect response? Not one! Is that the ground you are on, that the rock out of which the water of life has flowed to you? the ground out of which you are daily drawing strength? God says, "Having given this perfect Son of My love to die for poor sinners, tells out what My thoughts are towards those on earth who have eternal life in Him."
Ah! the human heart is deceitful, and desperately wicked. People say they believe all this, and the next moment say, " But, oh! I am such a failing pitiful creature." So you are; but you should spread out all your failure and evil before God, and the confession of it would just prove what the God is with whom you have to do. " Ah but the heart is so deceitful "-still turning back to what self is. When one has taken up Scripture, and He has shown me there my utter ruin, and that the Son of His love is the One on whom alone my soul rests, then I know that it is not me, but God; not my thoughts, but God's. Are you on that ground? Does the contrast between God and yourself turn you from every thought of self in His presence? Man cannot be separated from self, save as knowing himself to be in Christ. That links the heart to Him, but it makes me abhor self, because He is so perfectly unlike myself-self thinking of every vanity, and of pleasing the flesh, and God showing the contrast in that Son of His love. There is the beauty of His using that Son to carry out His plan of mercy. God has got something to woo me, but it makes one say, " What a vile creature one is;" it makes one loathe one's self. What a God! hiding sinners in the person of that Son seated at His own right hand-His hands and His feet being witness for them that their sins are washed in His blood. Ah, poor sinner, no other tidings for you, nothing else will do for you; there is no hope save through this mercy of God, quickening your soul, and bringing you nigh to Himself by the blood of Christ. It is a finished work to which you can add nothing. Do you begin with self or with God? God began with Himself, and He ends with Himself; and you must begin with Him, and end with Him. He alone can say, " I have a right to do as I will; and I will show mercy on whom I will show mercy."