Notes on Ephesians 3 and 4

Ephesians 3‑4  •  9 min. read  •  grade level: 7
The reference which Paul makes to his being a prisoner, is not so much because of himself, (as also in Colossians and Philippians, where it brought out the grace of the Church too,) but his object here is to bring out the weighty matter he was made prisoner for: " The prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles.
We have in Acts 22 the train of circumstances which led to Paul's being made a prisoner. They gave him audience until be declared his mission was to the Gentiles. Then they threw dust into the air, and said, it was not fit that he should live. It was no less than " the dispensation of the grace of God." It went beyond all promises to the Jews. The promises were indeed made, but this went beyond them all-a great deal farther. It was not only adding the Gentiles and sweeping away all difference, but bringing out a full revelation of His counsels, and showing His secret purpose of giving sinners a place as sinners. This dispensation of the grace of God was to put forth something worthy of Himself, and suitable for the exaltation of His own son, even tide Church. " To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God." He gave the Jews the promises. These were very gracious, but they were limited things, and by no means the full adequate display of what God was. Promises are not God. By Christ He made a glorious display of Himself The ways of God with Israel and the character of His government revealed Him dimly. The express and only image of Himself was Christ.
What unspeakable grace to take us poor, wretched, defiled, polluted sinners, and set us in the glory with His Son, yea, in the same glory as His Son. But it was, as already quoted, " to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God."
All the grace we meet by the way is founded on the fact of His having set us in this place. The priesthood of Christ does not bring us into it, but maintains us in it. There is something besides the person of Christ, though this is first; there is the grace which is brought out through Him. Sin is put away. There is " no more conscience of sin," no more fear; because through the blood of Christ applied through faith, there is no more imputation of sin. The soul is brought by the kindness of God in Christ Jesus into nearness to God Himself. Christ came into the place where Satan had been triumphing unto death, according to the just judgment of God, who had given him power over death, and here breaks up his power. He comes into the very place where it was greatest, and is made sin, that death thereby taking hold on Him, He might destroy it. He assaulted the whole powers of Satan in his own fortress, and led captivity captive. This expression is taken from Barak's song. " Awake, awake, Deborah: awake, awake, utter a song; arise, Barak, and lead thy captivity captive, thou son of Abinoam."
What a sense we get from this fact of the agony endured by Him, as the sacrifice for sin on the cross! It was not simply bodily suffering, though the recital of that alone might melt any heart; but the bitter grief of having to allow in the presence of those who taunted him with the fact of God having cast him off, " Thou host forsaken me!" This was not merely a seal to the truth of Scripture, but necessary for redemption. Man deserved to be forsaken, and so vicariously He suffered the forsaking. This was the keenest anguish, the bitterest drop in His sorrowful cup I
Whenever you find saints spoken of, you find Satan with devices peculiar to their circumstances. In Peter they are addressed as strangers and pilgrims scattered-and Satan is as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. In Colossians, Satan's devices are various, seeking to sever the saints from their Head, to obscure Christ's glory and Godhead, &c-beguiling and enticing. Here in Ephesians, where the saints are looked at in the heavenly places and power of resurrection life, Satan is spoken of as vanquished, captivity led captive. In their conflicts, however, they have to meet him in heavenly places in order practically to maintain their position.
What place do we find the Church put into here? The position of power, by virtue of the accomplishment of His glorious work. The Church is the vessel of the power of God. Christ places the Church at the right hand of God, as the fruit of His work. As man he perfectly glorified God here? As man He takes the place, and by right upon the throne of God above.
Till He had placed this title of His own upon the throne of God, He could not send down the Holy Ghost, who delights to present to the soul the knowledge of this full and perfect redemption wrought, and so set the soul in fellowship with Him that is there. I have to do with a Christ in heaven. If I get a Christ on earth, He can have nothing to do with me, for I am a Gentile. We receive grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ, till we all come unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.
Now, we have to keep the eye on the glory there. If the eye be off this heavenly place, in which we are set, we shall never keep the earthly position befitting our place there. It is the spring of all godly action. As a fact, we are down here; but, so far as I realize my place and portion up there, and only so far, shall I be the expression of Christ upon earth. As the apostle says elsewhere: " the epistles of Christ, known and read of all men;" and as Jesus said of Himself while on earth: " the Son of man which is in heaven." " If the Spirit of Christ dwell in you." This is what He worked for-to make a dwelling-. place down here for Himself on earth-a witness for Himself below. In figure we have this blessed truth given us by the tabernacle, the temple, Christ's own body. The character of the Church of God here is that it is-" blinded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit." The first effect of realizing this wondrous glory is, " lowliness, meekness," &c. Who could be proud in the presence of God? The mind, and heart, and spirit, growing up into the fullness that is in Christ, would be formed and fashioned by what He has done. So completely has Christ done His work, that there never ought to be a moment in which the saints' walk is not the result of His victory over the power of Satan. Our union with Christ is most real, even now, though, alas! we have to be thankful if a saint is not in a snare of the devil, instead of being able to rejoice because of his power over him.
Did not Christ cherish her as His own body, where would the Church be now? Our very infirmities, grievous as they are, and should be to ourselves, prove that He loves us, even as His own flesh. The continued outflowings of His grace testify the constancy of His care over us. The apostle would have us keeping the eye fixed on Jesus. Resist the devil and he will flee from us, Why? Because he has met Christ in us, who vanquished him. The delight of the Spirit is to testify of Christ's work and unfold it to us. But in very faithfulness of love, He cannot show Christ to us when we are living to ourselves and indulging the flesh. Then He must show us our sin. That is not the natural office of the Spirit; but His grace makes Him willing to do it, that restoring may take place.
The vessels of the Holy Ghost should be the enjoyers of the Holy Ghost, so as to be testimony to the work of Christ, who sent down that Spirit and enabled it to dwell in such hearts as ours.
It is by the power of faith alone that we walk practically. I do not say that we are able each moment to be occupied with the glory. By reason of the weakness of these bodies, we are not able always to be thinking of these heavenly and holy things. I am not at least. And we have most of us earthly duties and secular callings. But, realizing my place and power as a risen one, I go forth into the world armed with that which enables me to walk separate from it, and worthy of that glory which is before my eyes. Let a servant, for example, be treated harshly, accused unjustly, and he, by grace, take it patiently, he will return to his communion with God, happy, and only enjoying the more his place and portion in those heavenly places. But, if he have answered again, or spoken unadvisedly with his lips, he will come back ashamed and abased, and remember his place only to feel he has acted unworthily of it, and dishonored Him who brought him into it.
If that which is not of the Spirit should enter into our daily walk, at the seasons of our return to Christ, we shall have sorrow of heart instead of joy in the Spirit.
But there is always grace in Christ for every emergency. We need not slip with our feet; He has that which is suited for every moment's need. Only let the eye be fixed on the glory, and we shall walk as becomes the Bride who is to inherit it, and have done with ourselves, through the power of the revelation of His work, and the grace which makes it ours.