This edition is a continuation to Wellspring 25, and contains the first of Paul’s great prayers in Ephesians, the other one being in chapter 3.
1:15. Therefore I also, hearing of your faith in the Lord Jesus and love to all the saints.
If Paul were writing exclusively to the Ephesians, this language would be unnatural, because he had stayed there for two years, and knew many of the believers on an intimate spiritual level. Hence he now speaks to all those other places where the Gospel had been preached in the Asian towns as well as those that he knew well.
1:16 Cease not to give thanks on your behalf, making mention of you in my prayers.
The verb POIOUMENOS, “making”, is another example of the Middle Voice being used. This time it is a verb of mental energy, about whichWiner speaks in his “Greek Grammar.” It is difficult to translate, but perhaps “making (earnest)” mention would be nearer to the apostle’s sentiment.
1:17 in order that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him.
The verb “may give” needs a little attention here. The Greek inflexion is in theOptative Mood, and most English readers are completely unaware of its meaning. Optatives have the flavour of “hope”, “possibility”, “deference”, and can be translated by the use of such English words as “maybe”, “possibly”, “perhaps”, “hopefully”, and so on. In the example under analysis here, Paul is expressing his deference to the “God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ”, knowing that he cannot pray expecting his prayer to be answered in every case, but is hopeful that the Lord will bestow that “spirit of wisdom and revelation.” Therefore a strict translation would be, “that the Father may perhaps give you . . .” Knowing this, we come to an important conclusion. Just as no one can come to the Father save by Jesus Christ, so no one can obtain this special wisdom and revelation unless it is in the good pleasure of the Father’s will to bestow it. There may have been multitudes of believers within these Asian churches, but only those to whom this spirit of wisdom and revelation was given would be able to comprehend the depth of this divine mystery. By saying this, we may seem to be giving the impression that Christianity is a “closed shop” religion, understood only by those who have been made initiates, rather like the initiates of the Eleusinian mysteries. But this is not the case. The truth of the matter is that there are multiple layers of understanding, as the Lord leads His children up towards Himself. It is not His will at all times, and in all places, to all His children, to impart deeper knowledge. But those “to whom much is given, much is expected.” Our Lord spoke about various talents being imparted, but not all received the same amount. But by the judicious use of those talents, the Lord was (and is) able to determine whether certain individuals have the ability to represent Him in high office. He spoke about ruling certain numbers of towns, to illustrate what He meant. Therefore there is no ground for idle comparison, complaints of unfairness, or feelings of bitterness and jealousy. Members of the human body do not all possess the same function, but none is redundant, or without purpose. Likewise in the Body of Christ.
One final point here about the niceties of Greek grammar. In the New Testament there are but 37 examples of the use of this rare Mood known as the Optative. We find that quite the majority are in Luke’s and Paul’s writings, both of whom were literary scholars. The rest (a mere four examples) are found in Peter’s Epistles. In Classical Greek the major authors frequently employed the use of this sensitive Mood.
The knowledge of Him. The usual Greek word for “knowledge” is GNOSIS. In this instance an intensive form is used, EPIGNOSIS, literally “upon knowledge.” It is similar to the use of the prefix EPI with the adjective “heavenly” in 1:3, where we had to employ an expression such as “senior-heavenly”. The Greek Interlinear rightly attempts to deal with the EPI- here by translating it “full knowledge.” But we cannot imagine that Paul really meant that. After all, how can any created being attain to a full knowledge of the Godhead? Rather should the word be translated “deeperknowledge”.
1:18 The eyes of your heart having been enlightened that you should know what is the hope of His calling, and the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints.
In verse 11 we saw that God received an inheritance in the saints. Here we read about it again. But between, in verse 14 there is a mention of our inheritance. It is absolutely necessary for us to distinguish between these. Many believers only look to God for what concerns themselves, what someone has called a “bless-me-gospel.” But look at it from God’s own point of view. In this epistle we learn a little of the will of God, the good pleasure of God, the purpose of God, and His inheritance. It is far better to dwell on the things of the Lord than mentally to pile up the promises relating to one’s self. Remember the Elders round the throne in Revelation? When the Lord appeared, they straightway threw their crowns before the throne. Their own position, granted indeed by the Lord, was nevertheless so insignificant compared with the joy of standing face to face with the Son of God that they wanted to show their wholehearted appreciation. Should it not be like that for all of us?
The eyes of your heart. Notice here that the heart is mentioned, rather than the mind. Most people would know what we meant if we referred to the “eyes of our mind”, but Paul was not interested in the mind when he uttered this prayer. In Romans 10:10 Paul stated, “With the heart man believes unto salvation.” Even though “the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked” so that “only God can know it,” (Jer.17:9) yet God refers to this organ as the chosen vehicle by which we attain unto His righteousness. Why is this? The simple answer is that the mind is only capable of thinking things out rationally, and therefore it has to be made subservient to the heart before New Life can be granted from heaven. If it were the other way round, then man would be capable of taking the credit for his salvation. But it is excluded. The “eyes of our heart” have first to be illumined by the Holy Spirit to bring us to God. Then, having reached the place of new life, we are ready for the heart to be illumined once again, this time to receive great and wonderful things of which the world has no knowledge.
That you may know the hope of His calling. In 4:4 we read about “the one hope of your calling.” But here it is the hope of His calling. How do we distinguish between the hope of His calling, and the hope of our calling? Paul says that the hope of our calling is the same for all. It is one hope. We are all equally receptive of the gift of new life in Christ. There is only one hope, even as there is only one eternal life in Christ. But when Paul talks about the Lord’s own calling, he refers to the differences that will apply, based on the result of discipleship and training. In fact Paul speaks of prizes in this connection, and in Philippians 3:14 he himself reaches out for the “prize of the calling on high.” The very language in that passage demonstrates beyond all possible doubt that we are enjoined to reach out, to press on, to strain every nerve, to obtain something higher and more wonderful. Once again, we find no place for that lack-lustre, drab, colourless country espoused by the Socialist dream, where everyone is dragged down to the lowest common denominator type of existence. No, there is much new country to be discovered by pioneering saints, and God likes His children to have an urge to investigate, to move out, “to boldly go where no man has gone before,” to find “something hidden behind the ranges.” A.B.Simpson understood it when he penned the following lines –
On to broader fields of holy vision;
On to loftier heights of faith and love;
Onward, upward, apprehending wholly,
All for which He calls thee from above.
The riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints. The Lord has set His heart on obtaining an inheritance, and He will not be satisfied unless that inheritance is of the highest calibre. Shall we deny Him what He desires? Shall we, with mock humility, say, “I am but a very ordinary believer. I never aspire very high. There are dangers involved. I shall be satisfied with the lowest, meanest place in heaven, just as long as I manage to get there.” How would such an attitude be received in heaven? Would the Lord be proud of such a one? Ponder once again the parable of the pounds. Each of the ten men was given a pound, and on the Nobleman’s return each was called to give an account of his trading. The first said, “Lord, your pound has gained ten.” He was classed as a good and faithful servant, and was appointed authority over ten cities. The second came and said, “Lord, your pound has gained five.” He was likewise classed a good and faithful servant, and appointed authority over five cities.
There is much to learn from this. The accolade granted to both of these men was identical. They were both “good and faithful servants.” But their “trading” had produced different results. Therefore their ability to govern in God’s Kingdom would be different. The Nobleman never thought more highly of the first man because his trading had been more profitable. He knew that both men had traded to the best of their ability, and their reward was proportional to their ability. Of course, there was a third man who did nothing with his pound, and received strong rebuke from the Nobleman. Hence we repeat. It is vital for us to ensure that the Lord receives the best inheritance, and this means we have a duty to copy Paul’s example, to “forget that which is behind, and reach out to that which is before, and press towards the mark for the prize.” (Phil.3:14) He even went on to say, “Let all those who are perfect (i.e. of a mature mind) be thus minded. . . Brethren, be followers together with me.”
Before proceeding further, there is another side to this coin that needs attention. By the judicious use of yet another parable, the Lord brought home to His disciples a grave warning. He spoke about an important dinner party, to which a man might be invited, and thereby consider himself honoured. But where should he sit? If he decided to sit next to the host, he might be told politely that he must make way for someone more important. That would cause him embarrassment. No, the best thing to do was to sit at one of the lowest seats, and then be requested to move up. That would show true humility. (Luke 14:10-11) The Lord said, “Everyone who exalts himself will be abased, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.” So the lessons here are found on the two sides of this coin. First of all we should not rob God of the glory of His own inheritance by false humility. Then, having reached out for a prize, we should never try to appoint ourselves a position in God’s Kingdom, but with true humility await the Master’s judgment on our lives.
1:19. And what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of the might of His strength.
Look at this collection of words – “exceeding greatness”, “power”, “might”, and “strength.” Paul’s reverie in prayer was such that the Lord filled him almost to bursting point, so that he couldn’t find enough words to describe the benefits directed towards the saints from heaven. But this is only part of a sentence, and we need to look at the next two verses to see the fullness of what Paul was saying.
To us who believe. Could it be that Paul realised there would be few who either could or would fully believe in such exalted wonders?
1.20-21. Which He wrought in the Christ, raising Him from [among] the dead, and seating Him in the right hand [of His power] among the senior heavenly ones, far above all rule and authority and power and lordship and every name being named , not only in this age, but also in that which is coming.
Is it really true? How can we possibly imagine that God will use the same power towards His children that He used in raising His Son from the dead? But we are forced to think in this way, rather than reject it as beyond all rational thinking. Once again, it is ourhearts that must be enlightened to accept such magnificent bounty from the Throne of Grace, because our logical minds are incapable of believing such things.
How should the acceptance of this divine power affect the practical outworking of our lives? One can only turn to the Life of all lives, and see how the Master presented Himself to the Jewish world in days gone by. He acted with a tacit acceptance of His own person and position before His Father, but manifested a humility that never smacked of showmanship. He placed Himself entirely under the leadership and direction of His Father, and He performed works of power that spoke of His authority without the necessity of words. His focus in all things was the love of God to man, culminating in sacrificial love.
Possibly the greatest reason why we do not experience a taste of this “exceeding greatness” is that we do not fulfil the conditions for its operation. Referring to the qualities mentioned above, do we
- Accept, as believers, the position God has assigned to us, as part of His own inheritance, chosen before even sin entered the world, blessed with all spiritual blessings, forgiven all sins and trespasses, revealed to us His mysteries, granted an earnest of our later inheritance?
- Live day by day in the knowledge of these surpassing riches, but at the same time never refer to them, even to other believers, in such a manner that it would smack of showmanship or self elevation?
- Walk, day by day, in close communion with our Father in heaven, awaiting His word, His enlightenment, His instructions, His correction and training, rather than assigning ourselves to the overseership of human institutions and false ecclesiastical authorities?
- Speak out His word without fear of reprisal, misunderstanding, or isolation?
- Ask for spiritual power to release those who are bound by demonic power, or bodily ailment?
- Act in a manner to demonstrate God’s love to others, rather than living a self-centred spiritual life? (In this respect we may anticipate what Paul said in 3:17 about being “rooted and grounded in love”, and 4:15 about “speaking the truth in love.”)
It is a list that betrays our own bankruptcy for the most part. None of us can walk as He walked. But that does not mean we shouldn’t accept our Master’s walk as the standard by which we see our own weaknesses. Remember that Paul asked us to follow his example in respect of reaching out for the prize. How much more should we attend to the divine pattern set by the Son of God in His human life.
Raising Him from [among] the dead. Resurrection is the ultimate goal for us all, and should be looked upon with a yearning from day to day, knowing that our bodies perish, our minds grow weak, and like all men, we eventually expire and die. But Jesus was the “firstborn from among the dead”, and therefore He is the pledge, the guarantee, that all will eventually be raised to life as well.
But this is where we need to see the difference between two expressions. “From the dead” differs from “Of the dead”. The former speaks of resurrections that precede the final, all-inclusive resurrection, the one that Martha spoke about when she referred to “the resurrection in the last day.” Yes, there are to be resurrections prior to this, and they constitute part of the prize. Paul told the Philippians that his pursuit of the prize was linked to attaining “the out-resurrection, out from among the dead” to give a full translation. (Phil.3:11) John wrote in Revelation 20:4-6 “They lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead live not again until the expiry of the thousand years.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection.”
Seating Him in the right hand [of His power.] Translators often use the expression “at His right hand” as though it referred to a spatial position, where one may envisage two beings seated on a broad throne. It may be paralleled with Rev.3:21, where Jesus said, “I overcame and am seated with my Father in His throne.” But we must insist that to “sit at His right hand” is not the same as being seated “in His right hand.” This is not a twisting of words, but a recognition of a well-understood truth from N.T. times. To be seated in the right hand of someone’s power means being endued with that same power and authority. It doesn’t refer to spatial position at all. Jesus was raised by His Father and placed in the position of power which He Himself had. This is emphasised in its fullness in the following phrases.
Far above. Once again we must insist that this expression is not spatial. It has the all the force of authority, in the way in which we might speak of a large business house having a “pyramidal system of authority”, with one man as Managing Director at the top of the pyramid, and beneath him the Chief Executives, and so on down to the most junior operatives. The Greek word appears again in 4:10, where we read, “He who descended is the same also who ascended far above all heavens.” It was not like a rocket ship ascending to the highest point yet reached, but a statement reflecting the glory of a position far above all other heavenly executive powers.
Principality, power, might dominion, etc. God the Father placed His Son “among the senior heavenly ones”, but gave Him a position as the Chief over all types of authority. The words used here may not mean very much to us, because we have no real idea of how the heavenly hierarchy is constituted, but one thing is sure. Not all these principalities submit to divine rule. This was shown in the last paper when we looked at the five occasions when Paul mentioned the “senior heavenly ones”. The last of these is in 6:12. “We wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities, powers, world rulers of this darkness, against spiritual hosts of evil among the senior heavenly ones.”
Not only in this age, but also that which is to come. Not only in what is called “the gospel age”, the last two thousand years, but also in the coming Millennial Age, the great Sabbath Rest of God. We should learn to take courage in these words, because here in the “shadowlands” we are very aware of the tight grip that Satan has over world affairs, and how he manages to infiltrate the Churches, and cause continual disruption to all those who have bound themselves to the Lord Jesus Christ in obedience. But know this. The Lord Jesus is now, at this very time, far above all such activity. He is enthroned in His Father’s power, and all the works of Satan are only permitted evils. He has no real autonomy, even though he likes us to think he has. That is why, as believers, we have the authority to cast out demons in the name of the Lord Jesus. Truly we have the victory “because of the blood of the Lamb, the word of our testimony, not caring about our natural lives unto death.” (Rev. 12:11)
1:22-23 He has put all things under His feet, and gave Him headship over all things to the church which is His body, the fullness of the One who fills all in all.
The previous verses dealt with Christ’s exaltation over every heavenly power and authority. These two verses speak rather of what is happening here on earth, in the training ground of God’s church.
All things under His feet. The language speaks clearly of an achievement, not a prospect. At Calvary the Son of God achieved all that His Father required, to undo Satan’s work and bring total restitution to creation. However, as Paul pointed out when writing to the Jews, “You have subjected all things beneath His feet. Now in this saying [from the Psalms] that He subjected all things, nothing was left unsubjected. However, at this moment in time we do not see all things in subjection. But we see Jesus . . . crowned with glory and honour.” (Hebrews 2:9)
In Revelation 12 John saw the heavenly vision of a woman clothed with the Sun, and the Moon beneath her feet. The true church, here depicted as the Woman (later to be the Bride), has reached a position of authority, because the same expression is used. “Beneath the feet” is a typical Biblical formula to show both authority and subjection. It matters not what the Moon represents. That is not the focus of our attention just now. But the fact that she hasachieved that goal is important. It is also important to realise that she can only have achieved her goal because she was clothed with the Sun. The Lord’s own authority over the Woman’s life enabled her to reach that goal.
Headship over all things to the church which is the Body of Christ. The translation makes it seem as though the “church” (with whatever connotation man places on the word) is the Body of Christ. But this is not the case. The Greek employs an especially strong reflexive pronoun here for “which.” Paul is saying in effect that no matter what the world, or even Christians, think of in defining the word “church”, it is only “that Ecclesia which happens to be His Body” which is under consideration here. In Winer’s “Greek Grammar,” in a note on page 209, he says that this strong reflexive form of pronoun “often brings in an explanation or a statement of a cause.” Paul is here using the pronoun to explain what he means by the word “church”.
Headship. Head and body are an organic whole. We are not permitted to speak about an organisation in respect of the Church which is His Body, but only an organism. This is where the great difference lies between Christ’s position in the heavenlies, over all principality and power. He is not their organic Head. But God has made Him to be the organic Head over all things to His Church. This only emphasises why it is possible for God the Father to speak about the same power being liberated towards us as to His Son, because we are an organic whole. The figure of speech has been used to demonstrate the close connection between Head and Members. As such we should allow this concept full power in our daily lives, and learn to appropriate the fullness of what the Father has bestowed. Anything less than this would be dishonouring our Head and the Father.
Over all things. Yes, and this includes the weekly shopping, the washing of clothes, the way we use the car, how we speak to other people, whether Christians or not, what films we watch, what papers we read, what books we read, what time we go to bed and get up, and the type of food we eat. There is nothing too small, too insignificant not to be a part of the “all things”. It is a sobering thought. How many times in our lives have we compartmentalised our daily activities into those that are clearly “spiritual”, and those that more or less belong to ourselves to spend as we like, without thought of the Lord’s Headship over us?
The fullness of Him Who fills all in all. It is this organic relationship between Head and Members that makes the fullness. There can be no other fullness apart from the organic wholeness. As a result God our Father promises to fill all of us (within that Body) with all (spiritual gifts and graces.) It is His good pleasure. He delights in giving us of His fullness, and we should equally be joyful in receiving from the treasure store of His grace. Let us not render Him short measure for His abundance, but give everything to Him from a heart bursting with love and amazement at His bounty.
“It surpasses all human thought that children of death should be called into such fellowship. And they from the Gentiles, to whom God in ages past never had spoken such things. But the word of the Lord stands. It is not for us to doubt or to question, but to submit in all simplicity, and to take Him at His word. This alone satisfies and honours Him.”
This quotation is from “The Glory of the Body of Christ”, by E.F.Stroter, 1909, an exposition of Ephesians. This book, together with J. Armitage Robinson’s excellent commentary, we believe to be the two most valuable contributions to believers in understanding the depth of Paul’s letter.