Lecture 4 on the Epistle to the Ephesians

Ephesians 4:17‑20  •  13 min. read  •  grade level: 6
4. Eph. 4
Down to the 10th verse of the ii. chapter, the apostle is looking at the counsels of God to be made good in a people on the earth through that mighty power by which Christ was raised from the dead. From the 2 chapter, 11th verse, to the end of chapter 3, we get him looking at the change that had taken place upon earth, from the time that Christ went up rejected by Israel, and the rejection of Israel confirmed by the wickedness of the Gentiles. In the Church Jew and Gentile were not recognized as such, but both together are looked at here as the habitation of God through the Spirit. Then in chapter 3, he takes up the mystery God had revealed; and in the end of chapter 3, we get that blessed prayer that brings us to this-that Christ may be in our hearts the center and pivot of everything, as He is the center and pivot of all God's thoughts; that we may not only rest in Christ, but that He may really have that place in our hearts, as he says, "Filled unto all the fullness of God;" so that everything connected with us, everything that flows forth from us, may flow forth through Christ dwelling in our hearts by faith. This Christ, who in this way is revealed to us, is the center of all God's plans and counsels. In chapter 4:1-16, he shows the provision God had made for the development of this blessed truth down to the end of time in apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers-persons able to carry on the work to the end, not in the power of human nature, but in the power of Christ, that there might always be a testimony in this scene, something sure to be displayed because it was secured in Christ. Verse 17 gives not only what is secure for us in Christ (and this fountain open and unsealed is sure to pour forth its waters, and the people sure to receive it), but he takes up the portion of those that are to receive it in detail. I have no doubt there is a connection between 2:8-10, and the beginning of this 17th verse. He is speaking of something that in man down here he can call and calls God's workmanship. It is not that each believer has his path marked out for him here-that we get elsewhere.
In chapters 4:17, 5:21, we have what these works were, which as connected with us make us to be connected with God-make us to be the workmanship of God. It turns out then they are truth, love, and light-three things which evidently are not of the first, but of the last Adam, and could not be understood by man cast out of the garden. You are called as created in truth, and this creation is inseparable from love and light.
4:18. It is a remarkable expression as connected with the state of man in nature, " alienated from the life of God "-" come short of the glory of God;" but this is stronger still, because it says " alienated from the life of God." " You do not mean to say I am to walk down here as having the life of God?" Yes; " God hath given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son." They were called from that time not to walk as good men, but, as having the life of God, we are to walk as sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty. We cannot be connected with that Son by the Spirit without having the life of God. There are two portions of Scripture which are very similar-Eph. 4:22-2922That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; 23And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; 24And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. 25Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor: for we are members one of another. 26Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: 27Neither give place to the devil. 28Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. 29Let 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. (Ephesians 4:22‑29), and Col. 3:99Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; (Colossians 3:9). This is the peculiar position in which the child of God stands now-I have put off the livery of Satan, and have put on the livery of Christ.
Verse 20, he expresses surprise at them. Verse 21, "as the truth is in Jesus." This is not the truth of the gospel that presents the mercy and compassion of God to the poor sinner afar off. This is the extent of grace given to us who have come in. " I do not see you apart from Christ. I do not see you as part of the world; how can you live as part of the world?" Now this is a grand thought. As to our display of truth, I have got to run as a man that has been taken out of the hand of Satan, and become a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. What is to be the character of my walk, having put off the old man and put on the new? I am to walk as a man delivered from the power of darkness, and so connected with Him who is the truth, that without His body, of which through grace I am a member, the very glory that was prepared for Him could not be His. What would be the bearing of it upon Christ, if all power was put into His hand up there for His body the Church? If there was no such thing as the body, there could not be the glory of the Head; it would be a dishonor to Him that had been put at God's right hand. Well, God wanted to honor Him, and therefore the power of God came forth, and called such a man as Saul of Tarsus, and gave him certain light, and then to others; and that light has come to us, and what has been the effect of it upon us? When the Lord Jesus Christ came one night, and looked into my heart, that eternal life which is His came forth to my soul, and I got a new position from that time, having Himself before me. This new position was one clean outside of the world-entirely a new position. Christ up there in heaven, Head of the body, and believers down here on earth, members of that body; that truth was revealed to my soul. God looking into a soul quickens it. God does not turn the rebel into a pit of despair to learn what He has done. No, He never does that; they never could learn it there.
Well, that is the first great thing connected with these works. It has got the standard of everything in Christ. I have got to do with the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. There is this Lord Jesus Christ making the throne of God a mercy-seat. All that Satan could do could not prevent the Lord Jesus taking up such a man as Saul of Tarsus. He takes His place not only as the Giver of life, but as the life of those who believe on Him. In Scripture there is no redemption apart from the Lamb. When it comes to the question of redemption, the Lamb is on the throne before it could be unfolded to man. It must be true in Him, before it is true for us. The thing was true in Him. He had gone into the presence of God, and sat down there before He woke us up. He was at the right hand of God. God saw us wandering about seeing what we could do, and then He not only let the light shine down upon us, but gave it force to enter the soul and quicken us. It was all wholly grace.
Verse 26, &c. There was a number of things that were practically inconsistent with the truth, and the man of God was to watch against them, and seek God's strength to avoid them.
Chap. 5:1, 2. How is it possible for me, as a mere man, to look upon man on the earth with anything like love? What can lay hold of the heart and draw forth love? You cannot have it in the heart and it not go forth to man. (John 3:1616For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16).) It is part of the truth connected with. the new creation; it is not in nature-that is cold; it grows out of the love God has had for us. Is there a believer, a child of God, that does not know that Christ gave Himself a ransom for us? that does not know the Father's love to the children. The faith given to the child identifies him with the Father. Did He wait till I loved Him? Have I a single word I could say to Him about my love except, " I love Him because He first loved me?" What is my position as a believer? I have the Father, and He has an only begotten Son, and the Spirit has taken possession. of my heart, and possession of a great number of hearts down here. Love begets love, and a person cannot find himself truly loved by God without a heart of peculiar interest in those in the same position. And he has to vindicate the love of God to poor sinners; there are many on the wide common of the world still. The new creation-the bringing into vital union with Him, and the display of that life that was brought out when He cleansed their sins, and brought them into perfect liberty and peace in the presence of God. Our being children of light flows out of our being of the divine nature. Who can hold that truth as the expression of God's feelings towards us, and not find himself brought into the light, and find at the same time everything for him? He who is without any veil over His face, is able to rend the veils of the hearts of poor sinners that all the light of God may shine down into their hearts, that everything in them and around them may be brought out to their own knowledge.
Verse 3. Who that is in the light of this fellowship does not see that the body is for the Lord? I am like a bound man. His love constrains His own that they should not " henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again." Hence they cannot make their bodies their end, live for themselves down here, but unto Him. Though He is sitting at God's right hand, He wants us to live for Him. The poorest as well as the richest can do this.
Verse. 8. " Light in the Lord;" is not that light? Ah! light of the purest kind. Verse 17. A man that has got sight does not feel his way as one often sees a blind man groping about the street. One naturally inclines to turn and see in such a case if he is near a crossing or any danger. But if one sees a person walking in that way, if the eye is clear one supposes intoxication, and gets out of his way as fast as possible. This is the place you are put into-the truth, love, and light; and the works are truth, light, and love displayed in Christ, Head of the body in heaven. Verses 18-21. There may be fictitious strength, but it cannot last. Then he goes on to the effect of light.
It produces joy in the heart. If you and I were abiding in the light, how natural that word in Philippians " Rejoice in the Lord," would be to us. Abiding in the light of the glory. It is there for us. We have got the principles connecting us with Him, but if we were abiding in that light flowing out to us, that blessed joy of Christ flowing into the heart, there would be the way of expressing it, making melody in our hearts to the Lord.
Verse 20. Now there will be that giving of thanks for all things, &c.-that is the effect. A great many believers say," Oh, yes; but I find the wilderness a very inconvenient place. I get very weary; I find it very irritating mixing with a company of believers, and their flesh and my flesh do not get on well together." What led Paul in everything to give thanks? He was abiding in the light; he saw all the untoward things but as occasions for the love of God to display itself. One is obliged to go through this bit of the wilderness, suppressing what is naughty in oneself. But, ah! we do not think that God formed that wilderness for Himself God wanted the opportunity, as One who is the eternal Lover of His people, of being alone with Israel. He knew their difficulties; God was with His people. "They have no water-they are thirsty; I shall have the pleasure of opening the rock for them. Have they learned their lesson? Do they call upon Me? I brought them out, that in my dealing with them they may learn that I am God. I must make more difficulties for them. I did not take them across the Red Sea to drop them. I am present with them, as watching over them, that I may see I have the first place in their hearts." God was jealous over His first-born son. (Ex. 4:2222And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the Lord, Israel is my son, even my firstborn: (Exodus 4:22).) May not a Father have a thought that he would like to have the affection of His child? He took them into the wilderness that He might have the opportunity of teaching them that. Ah I beloved, I am not throwing a stone at anybody in this. If any feel it, I hope they take it home to themselves. It is a very great thing to give thanks for all things at all times. There is something disappointing all my thought. Well, God is behind it; I must find Him there; it has not brought God to His wits' end. The more I am in the light, the more I see there is my heaven up there, and everything connected with that glorious Person is watched over even in me, the feeblest member here; for I can give thanks. You must be in the light to give thanks always. I do not
say, 1 do it. That we do not is because there is independence, and we do not see God in our circumstances. We are at school; but there will be nothing of the kind when we get home to our Father's house. If you were in subjection to God, you would see it is an easy thing in everything to give thanks. Every day brings out things which seem untoward to us; but they are not untoward to God, but are opportunities for God to display His love to us. There is nothing more sweet then, than to say, when everything is contrary to nature, " Not my will, but Thine be done." I will take up Thy will in these things, satisfied to let my own will go.