Thoughts on Ephesians 1

Ephesians 1  •  14 min. read  •  grade level: 6
Is Ephesians, although the church is put in the highest place it can be, yet the doctrine is individual, and is used for the building up of individual souls. Being a heavenly thing, the place where it is spoken of as being already is heaven—its proper place—and there only it is seen; yet it ought also to have been manifested on the earth. “He gave some apostles, and some prophets,” &c “for the edifying of the body of Christ.” That is the end, and ought to be always kept in view. Paul always speaks of the church as a body on the earth; he treats it so in Ephesians, although numerically it will only be in heaven, when complete. But the Holy Ghost is sent down to form the unity of the body down here, and this is “the mystery” of Christ and the church.
It ought to be looked at more as a body on earth. Through neglect of this, the unity of the body down here has been lost sight of; and this makes the language one hears about what is really union so unsatisfactory. I want unity-I want to see that manifested which is spoken of, “for by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body;” seeing the heavenly character of the church will lead to this, and that is the object in this Epistle. Till the glory comes, the church must be contemplated on the earth, though a portion of it is already in heaven, and, seen by faith, happy up there, “absent from the body, present with the Lord.” Those that are gone before, although their position is most desirable, and blessed, nevertheless are not in a condition in which they can glorify Christ now, because this must be down here; but they are gone, and are with Christ. They do not form a part of that body which ought to display Christ down here. When the day comes, they will be brought back, and all will be then displayed together.
The church is looked at in Ephesians in its individual character, as seated in heavenly places in Christ; and therefore the coming of the Lord is a truth not mentioned. The manifestation of its unity should be as a body on the earth. In Ephesians we get that which belongs to the whole church-the church; in 1 Thessalonians it is local. Ephesians speaks of children and the Father, not the bride of Christ, though as the bride of Christ they will also have a peculiar place in relation to the Father as children. In Hos. 1:1010Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God. (Hosea 1:10) I believe the Christian calling is alluded to, and that it does not apply to Israel in that day: “in the place where it was said to them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God.” We find another use, as quoted in 1 Peter 2, in reference to Hos. 2:2323And I will sow her unto me in the earth; and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them which were not my people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God. (Hosea 2:23). “I will say unto them which were not my people, Thou art my people, and they shall say, Thou art my God.” But the apostle Paul, in applying it, says, “In the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there shall they be called the Children of the living God.” (Ver. 26.)
The Gentiles were always “Lo-ammi,” and he says to Israel, “Lo-ammi;” so all are “Lo-ammi.” But now we get a new principle. “In the place where it was said unto them, Lo-ammi, there shall they be called the children of the living God.” And this is going on now. When Israel is restored, it is as “the people of God.”
In the third verse we get the condition and standing; in the fourth verse our present condition; in the fifth verse relationship and standing; and in the sixth and seventh, our known actual condition before God as a realized fact. He has done this that we should be something, but something before Him. It is a great thing to have the consciousness of being this in His sight. When I know God is looking at me, I am not occupied in looking at myself, but thinking that God is looking at me; and this acts upon the affections, and I know God is interested in me. So it speaks of the “good pleasure of his will.” “Adoption of children to himself,” not merely adopted us as children-He wanted something for Himself. “Chosen us in him before the foundation,” &c. It is not the eternity of the predestination that gives it its sovereignty, for it would be as much an act of sovereignty if chosen to-day; but that takes us clean out of the world. We have precedence of the world, where we are manifested. So in John 1 get life that He had with the Father before the foundation of the world, “for thou lovedst me before the foundation,” &c. Now the world is against Me, you must take Me without the world. The election was before the creation of the world. Christ was loved before it, so that the church is outside the creation of the world. The world has its creation in time. This is spoken of as before it was founded.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He speaks as man of God, as Son of the Father. Thus whenever He speaks of God, it is as a man whom God has raised from the dead, of His God and our God. He has gone up, and taken the place of the risen man, even as Son of man. In verse 17 it is, “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ;” in chapter iii. 14 it is, “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” It is His title, and in the same sense applies to us. It is taken in connection with Christ as risen and gone up. Now the Jews' place of blessing is the earth; we are blessed in heavenly places. There are a few passages in the New Testament where “Lord” means “Jehovah,” and where it means Jehovah it is simply “Lord;” but not in every instance that it is simply Lord does it mean Jehovah, but merely His name as exalted Man. Jesus means, Jehovah will save, as Joshua meant of old. “Father, I will that those whom thou hast given me may be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory that thou hast given me. The glory that thou hast given me, I have given them.” The link in the beginning of the chapter connects them. He takes this glory in display as a man, and He can therefore share it with us. The glory Thou hast given Me-not given to Him as the Son eternally with Him, but as the Man. So He speaks in John 17 as a Man, and yet as equal with the Father. “Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me"-and “all mine are thine, and thine are mine"-showing He is one with the Father, and at the same time that it is a truth that as a Servant He receives everything. Yet the Father was morally indebted to Him for all this glory. “I have glorified thee on the earth.”
His Lordship is conferred upon Him as Jesus, a Man, though it means Jehovah. The conferred title is because He is Jehovah. In reading the New Testament, Christ is often taken as though it were part of His name (it is so in two or three places), and it loses much of its effect when it is so read. Jesus is the name; Christ is the title, and means Anointed. Jesus means Jehovah-Savior, and it is His glory that is spoken of in Isa. 6 “In the year that king Uzziah died,” quoted by John. (Chap. 12:41) In Hebrews also we read, “whose voice then shook the earth,” but now He has promised, saying,” Yet once more I shake,” &c., declaring it to be the same voice in Hebrews to us now that spake in thunders at Mount Sinai. Where Lord and Christ are used together, it is the risen Man. Where Jehovah is meant, it is simply Lord (not always meaning Jehovah). In Hebrews the word, “by his Son,” does not convey the meaning fully-it is, “in the Son.” Wonderful grace, to become a man and a servant for us! “Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers,” &c. “And to the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God,” &c. When He is in the highest place, and He owns Him as God, God makes Him our fellow. But when He is in the lowest place, smitten as man, God calls Him His fellow. “Awake, O sword, against the man,” &c. (Zech. 13)
In this verse 4 God has chosen to have the saints before Him. He is pleased to delight Himself in us. He can delight in His creatures, but in us He has special delight, “holy and without blame before him in love,” thus surrounding Himself with us. If we really believe the saints are loved by Christ, we do not get the measure of His love unless we love them too-” love to all saints;” then we may look to have our mind filled with all the intelligence of His glory. Here is special relationship in Him. He not only predestinated us to be holy and without blame before Him in love, but to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself; and here we get the character of sonship; He “the firstborn among many brethren.” We are put into the same position as Christ. He has taken this place before God as the Son, and He has been pleased to give us that place. It is in Christ He gives us all the grace, and before Him; and thus we take His position, “made us accepted in the Beloved.”
The whole character of God's grace is set forth in this word, “in the Beloved.” But it means more in the original than can be expressed by an English word. It is more than acceptance, including all His dealings in grace. “Dealt with us in grace” will not do, for it is more than that: He put us in the same position with Christ really, but it is, perhaps, best expressed as we have it, after all. Thus we are made partakers of all the Father's grace and love. “In whom we have redemption,” &c.-this is the introduction to all else. He has made this grace abound unto us in all wisdom and prudence, that the church should understand what He has done for it in Christ-revealed all His thoughts to it. As a part thus He has put us in grace, and has abounded over all this by giving us now the knowledge of what His pleasure is in the fullness of times. He has established something for the fullness of times, as now He tiles been, and is, preparing the joint-heirs to reign with Christ. God's plan, when everything is complete, is, that Christ shall be Head over everything in heaven and in earth. (Ver. 11) “In whom also we have obtained an inheritance.” We have got redemption and the earnest of the inheritance, and are waiting for the inheritance in the fullness of times.
How much he speaks of saving grace in the beginning! “Sealed” is introduced to show the special care of God, to secure to the Gentiles, and show them they should have part, specially to the praise of His glory. We who have anticipated the time, and have taken part in the suffering, we are to be to the praise of His glory. God sealed the poor Gentiles after they believed to show them that all was sure to them also. In reading Ephesians you have to pay attention to the “us,” sometimes meaning Jews, and sometimes meaning all, as in chapter 2:7.
“You,” in chapters i., ii., means Gentiles (we were both dead together, and He raised both up together), in verse 13, “in whom ye also trusted:” when the sealing of the Holy Ghost is brought in, there is no difference between Jew and Gentile. “Out of his fullness have all we received grace for grace,” heaped benefits on benefits. Sealing means God has put His seal to say, That is Mine. Jesus was sealed by the dove descending and abiding on Him at baptism. The disciples were sealed with cloven tongues of fire. They were to go forth to all nations, and they needed the tongues to set right the confusion of Babel. But of Jesus it was written, “His voice shall not be heard in the streets.” He was not to raise His own voice. Tongues are signs and gifts too. The gifts of the Holy Ghost are not to be confounded with the Holy Ghost Himself. The use of the tongues, though they were the gifts of the Holy Ghost, might grieve the Spirit whereby they were sealed, who exercised the gifts to the day of redemption.
A good man full of the Holy Ghost, like Stephen, can act according to-God in the outward circumstances, instead of being acted on by them. “Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess, but be filled with the Spirit. We have to watch ourselves, if God gives a certain energy of service, that the moral state of our soul keeps on a level with it; otherwise one may go on and on, and when there is much power of service, without the inward communion, he is suddenly spent, and breaks down. Take Elias, &c. After praying to God in the presence of all the priests of Baal and the people, and God answering by fire, he slays them all, so that not one priest escapes, and the name of the Lord is proclaimed. “The Lord be is God.” Yet Jezebel does but threaten, and Elias runs away, and hides himself from the face of a woman. God says, “What doest thou here, Elijah?” It is a great thing to have our souls at the level of our service, or we shall get trouble somehow. The apostle asks, “Do all speak with tongues?” They were special signs-not of universal gift or conferring. The consequence of Christ's ascension, the Holy Ghost is received in a new way. He seals us in virtue of Christ's redemption, but He sealed Christ as being Himself perfect in His personal excellence as Son. The oil is upon the blood in us. We must receive the redemption of the Son before we can be anointed with the oil. Aaron was first anointed without the blood.
The powers of the world to come are spoken of in connection with tongues and miracles. Like Abraham, we have left our Father's house and kindred-come into the inheritance too, but yet we have got nothing. He had got into a Canaan, but had not so much as to set his foot on. There is not a single thing I shall get in heaven, except the glorified body, which I cannot by faith say I have got now. Eternal life, entrance into the holiest, Christ's righteousness, the Holy Ghost, as the power of enjoyment. The distinct realization of this gives us to see what a thin veil there is between us and heaven-only the body. The first-fruits of the Spirit is spoken of in reference to the pouring out of the Spirit in the latter day. So it is said, the “former and the latter rain.” We are the first-fruits of the Spirit now. We are called to know what is the hope of “his calling"-not your calling-and what the riches of God's inheritance, for all things He inherits in His saints. The apostle wants us to see not only the things to which we are brought, but the power that has brought us there: “and what is the exceeding greatness of his power,” &c.
What a thought! if we get the truth of God by the Holy Ghost into our minds, how all the world's vanities fall before us!