The exceeding greatness of His power
We are most grateful to the Lord that we may present to you this issue of our magazine concerning the epistle to the Ephesians, which is generally considered to be one of Paul’s profoundest epistles.
The circumstances in which the apostle found himself were far from enviable, but being in a Roman prison, he was aware of his heavenly position. And so he regarded himself as being ‘the prisoner of the Lord’ (4:1).
I don’t know your circumstances, but I trust, dear reader, that if you know the risen Lord, the Messiah of Israel, you will find in this letter a great comfort. Because how difficult and poor our portion in this world may be, we are blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ (1:3).
Mr. Piet Beker, the author of this issue, has been working with his wife for years amongst the Russian speaking Jewish people in Italy and Germany. Being in his eighties, he is still active as secretary of ‘Israel and the Bible’, and writes many articles for our monthly Dutch magazine. His secret is: “the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward who believe...”.
We trust and pray that, while reading and studying this magazine with an open Bible, the Lord will enlighten the eyes of your understanding to know Him and the exceeding greatness of His power.
With a warm Shalom,
United in the love of Israel’s Messiah,
The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Ephesians
In this Epistle of Paul we have an inspired unfolding of the counsels of God for the glory of Messiah and the blessing of those who are destined to share His glory.
The Epistle was probably not addressed and sent to a particular congregation, but was meant to be read in several congregations of which Ephesus was one. From the contents of the letter it would appear to be for the universal Church as we do not see special questions or remarks as we see in other letters of Paul. Probably the letter was written in 60-62 AD when the apostle was imprisoned in Rome (Acts 28:30, 31).
It will best serve us if at the outset we delineate the whole epistle in a framed analysis.
Salutation (1:1, 2)
OUR WEALTH IN CHRIST (1-3)
Chapter 1 Praise for spiritual possession (verses 3-14)
Prayer for spiritual perception (verses 15-23)
Chapter 2 Our new condition in Christ (verses 1-10)
Our new relation in Christ (verses 11-22)
Chapter 3 Revealing of the Divine mystery (verses 1-13
Receiving of the Divine fullness verses 14-21)
OUR WALK IN CHRIST (4-6)
As regards the Church corporately (4:1-16)
As regards believers individually (4:17-5:2)
As regards sensual-living outsiders (5:3-21)
As regards special relationships (5:22-6:9)
As regards Satanic spirit-powers (6:10-20)
Salutation (1:1, 2)
“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus” (1:1)
The fact that Paul introduces himself as an ‘apostle of Jesus Christ’ certainly points out that the epistle has to be read as an epistle of Christ Himself. Paul included the name of his Sender and so it has His authority.
Though the Church is formed on earth, it belongs to heaven, and although passing through time, it was planned in eternity and for eternity.
Paul addresses the believers as: “To the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus”.
To be a saint and to be a faithful are two sides of the same reality. “To be a saint”, shows what the Lord is doing, while “to be faithful” shows man’s responsibility.
“Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.”
We may see here a reference to the blessing of Aaron in Numbers 6:24-26: “The LORD bless thee, and keep thee: The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.” Furthermore we always find this order in the salutations of the apostle, first grace and than peace mentioned. Without the grace of God it is impossible to have peace with God and receive the peace of God. We cannot make peace with God but He has done so by the cross that means the death of the Messiah (Col. 1:20).
OUR WEALTH IN CHRIST
Praise for spiritual possessions (verses 3-14)
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ”. (1:3)
The Source of all our blessings is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; the character of the blessings is spiritual; and the place where they are found is in heavenly places in Christ.
We see that the apostle begins his epistle with praise to the Father for everything He has given to the believers. It is important for us to praise Him as well as this will also speak of our thankfulness towards Him. He has given His son in Whom we are blessed and these blessings came to the believers only by the grace of the Almighty God.
The little word all speaks of the fullness of our blessings: We are blessed with all spiritual blessings. It reminds us of David’s words in Psalm 23: “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.”
So notice that our blessings are spiritual and not material, as it was with the blessings for Israel as a nation. We read for example in Deut. 28:3-5: “Blessed shalt thou be in the city, and blessed shalt thou be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy ground, and the fruit of thy cattle, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep. Blessed shall be thy basket and thy store..”
Our blessings are nevertheless very real: the adoption of children; redemption through his blood; the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace, etc., as can be read in the following verses.
On earth we may have little but in the heavenly places we are richly blessed in Christ. In the heavenly places God made us sit together in Christ Jesus (2:6) and it is in these heavenly places that God elected us to be a testimony unto the principalities and powers concerning His manifold wisdom (3:10).
“According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love” (1:4)
From the far distant eternity “before the foundation of the world” we were already chosen in Christ in order to be “holy and without blame” and “in love”. Holy, without blame and in love are in fact the attributes of God as perfectly expressed in Christ. He was, and is, holy in character, irreproachable in conduct and He is love in nature. But in Him, God made us “holy and without blame”. Some expositors see the connection of love and the predestination we find in verse 5. This means that the predestination finds its origin in the love of God as we also see with the nation of Israel in Deuteronomy 7:7, 8.
As faith receives these great truths and looks on to the glorious end, it delights in all that has been revealed of the heart of God and of the efficacy of the work of Christ.
“Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children (better translation is ‘sons’) by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will”. (1:5)
To all these wonderful blessings the believers are predestined “according to the good pleasure of His will”. This predestination is often seen as something fatalistic, one is predestined, but the other is not. First of all, God has chosen us in Christ (1:4). He in fact is the Chosen. Secondly, the Bible does not teach that anybody is predestined to perish. In contrary, the Bible says that God is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Pet 3:9). Meanwhile we have to admit that our human mind is too limited to bring these lines in full accordance with each other. Therefore we must believe what God says without drawing our own human conclusions, which always fall short.
“To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved”. (1:6)
The riches of God’s grace set us before Himself in suitability to Himself. The glory of His grace brings us into a wonderful relationship with the Beloved.
“In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace”. (1:7)
We have been redeemed through the blood of Christ and our sins are forgiven according to the riches of His grace. The glory of God’s grace brings us into an intimate relationship with God: “no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God” (Eph. 2:19).
“Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his pleasure which he hath purposed in himself”. (1:8-9)
God wants the believers to know the mystery of His will. In Scripture a ‘mystery’ is not necessarily something mysterious, but rather a secret made known to believers, before it is publicly declared to the world.
“That in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth: even in him:
In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will. That we (Jews) should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ”. (verses 10-12)
The “fullness of times” refers, in my opinion, to a state when earth and heaven will be reconciled in Christ. This will be after the Messianic era. Although His government will be perfect during the Messianic kingdom, some people remain disobedient (compare Isa. 65:20; Rev. 20:7-10).
Furthermore we see that according to God’s good pleasure, the Body of Christ shall participate in this vast inheritance over which Christ will be the Head. In that day He will be glorified and admired in all that believe. (2 Thess. 1:10)
Some believe that 'the dispensation of the fullness of times' follows the present dispensation of the grace of God. In this view it is the time when the great tribulation, also called the time of Jacobs trouble, will take place. So it is the time preceding the Messianic kingdom in the which the Messiah Jesus will reign on the throne of David in Jerusalem.
“In whom ye (Gentiles) also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of
promise. Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory”. (1:13, 14)
Notice the order here. First man has to hear the Word of truth, which is the Gospel of his salvation; then he has to believe; then he receives salvation, being sealed with the Holy Spirit as being God’s property forever. The result is: “unto the praise of His glory!”
Prayer for spiritual perception (verses 15-23)
“Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers”. (1:15, 16)
Faith brings us first of all into fellowship with Christ, but also with fellow believers. The more we practice our fellowship with Christ, the more we grow in love towards all the believers (saints). Meanwhile the apostle unfolds his continual thanksgiving and prayers for the believers who are under his teaching.
“That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him. The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints. And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power” (1:17-19).
Notice that Paul speaks about ‘the Father of Glory’, presenting the thought that the scene of glory takes its character from the Father from Whom its springs.
The knowledge of Christ, for which the apostle prays, is not an intellectual knowledge, but an acquaintance of the heart with a Person.
In his prayer he makes four requests:
1. That they may know Him (through the spirit of wisdom and revelation);
2. That they may know the hope of His calling;
3. That they may know the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints;
4. That they may know the greatness of His power to the believer.
What a comfort to know that in all our weakness there is a surpassing power toward us and working for and even in us.
“Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,
Far above all principality, and power, and mighty, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come”. (1: 20, 21)
In this exalted position Christ has been set above every other power, whether spiritual principalities and power, or temporal might and dominion. Christ has a Name above every name: He is King of kings and Lord of lords.
“And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all”. (1:22, 23)
Here we learn another great and comforting truth: Christ, being the supreme Authority over all things, is given by God to the church to fill all in all. In Him is the power and authority to put down all evil and He is the One who is the head over all things to the Church. Meanwhile we learn that the Church is the body of Christ. So the Church is not a building, nor an institution of man, but the fullness of Him that fills all in all.
Our new condition in Christ (verses 1-10)
In chapter 2 we learn first about the power of God in us (2:1-10) and secondly of God’s ways with us (2:11-22), in order to fulfil His counsels for us.
“And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; where in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience; among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others”. (2:1-3)
Paul presents the condition and position which man has fallen into soon after the creation. The first two verses present the condition of the Gentile world, addressed by the apostle with “you” (Gentiles).
Verse 3 brings the Jews into this picture. We all, both Jew and Gentile are by nature ‘children of wrath’. Both were guided by the lusts of their flesh.
“But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us”. (2:4)
In the first three verses we see man acting according to his fallen nature, bringing himself under judgement. In the following verses we see, in direct contrast, God acting according to His nature: His great love. Grace is love in activity towards unworthy objects, and goes out towards all. Who can measure His “great love”, and who can measure the blessing that is according to that love? It is God in His love Who took the initiative for our salvation.
“Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace we are saved;) and hath raised us up together and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus”. (2:5, 6)
Being dead there can be no movement on our side towards God. So our condition by grace is the exact opposite to our condition by nature.
But not only is our condition changed, our position is also changed. Our new place is set forth in Christ. Jewish and Gentile believers are raised up together and made to sit together in the heavenly places in Christ. The quickening was “with Him”, but risen and seated also is “in Him”. We are before God in this new position in the Person of our representative, that is “Christ”.
“That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus”. (2: 7)
We are now told the glorious purpose that God has in view, thus acting towards us in His kindness. It is obvious that nothing but the highest condition and position in which a man can be found is adequate for such great ends. And this condition and position is in Christ Jesus. The believers belonging to the Church, the Body of Christ, are an 'exposition' of the exceeding riches of Gods grace and kindness. It looks like this will last for ever. How wonderful!
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast”. (2: 8, 9)
All is brought to pass by the grace of God and every blessing we enjoy is the gift of God. The salvation is received by faith and is the gift of God. For we are saved by the faith of Christ, as we read in Gal. 2:16: “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ”. That means that Messiah by His work in faith on the cross made it possible for everyone to be saved. The salvation is the 'present' God gives by grace and our faith is 'the hand' which receives this salvation. Have we ever given thanks to the Lord for this wonderful gift?
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them”. (2:10)
We form part of a new creation in Christ Jesus. “These good works”, are prepared by God and lead to a godly walk. These good works are not the basis of our salvation, but the fruit of our salvation. If we walk in obedience to the Lord and His Word he will lead us to these good works to be done for His glory.
Our new relation in Christ (verses 11-22)
“Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision in the flesh made by hands; that at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the common-wealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world”. (2:11, 12)
The apostle reminds the Gentile believers that in time past there existed a very sharp distinction between Jew and Gentile. Israel formed an earthly commonwealth with earthly promises and earthly hopes and was in a special relationship with God. Their religious worship, their political organisation, their social relations, from the highest act of worship to the smallest detail of life, were all regulated by the ordinances of God. This was an immense privilege in which the Gentiles, as such, had no part.
“But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ”. (2:13)
This new position of believers no longer views them as in the flesh, but in Christ. Therefore Paul emphasises “but now in Christ”. He draws a contrast to the former position in the flesh with the new position being “made nigh by the blood of Christ”.
This is not a mere outward nearness by means of ordinances and ceremonies, but a vital nearness that is seen in Christ Himself. It is not only that the believer can draw nigh to God, but by the blood of Christ he is “made nigh”.
“For He is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us. Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace”. (2:14, 15)
Jewish and Gentile believers are “made one”. This is what Christ accomplished by His death. In a double sense: He is our peace between God and the believer and He is our peace between Jewish and Gentile believers.
In His death Christ removed “the law of commandments”, which was the cause of the distance between God and man and between Jew and Gentile.
Our peace is set forth in Christ, Who is “our peace”. Believers from Jewish and Gentile backgrounds are made into “one new man”. This expression tells of a new order of man marked by the beauty and heavenly graces of Christ. The whole Church is set forth as the new man.
“And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby”. (2:16)
As formed into “one body”, both Jews and Gentiles are reconciled unto God. First this reconciliation was necessary between man and God but also has an effect between men as believers.
“And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father ” (2: 17, 18)
This truth reminds us of the Gospel of peace preached to the Gentiles, who were far off, and to the Jews who were near. The result of this Gospel is that by one Spirit we both (Jews and Gentiles) have access to the Father. The distance is not only removed on God’s side, but it is also removed on our side. By the work of Christ on the cross God can draw near to us preaching peace and by the work of the Spirit in us we can draw near to the Father. The Spirit excludes the flesh in every form. It is by “one Spirit” and therefore in the Father’s presence all is of one accord.
It is wonderful to see the way in which God has accomplished this great work by the blood of Christ on the cross, by the preaching and by the Spirit.
“Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets , Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone; in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord; in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit”. (2:19-22)
The Church is viewed as growing unto “an holy temple in the Lord” that is “an habitation of God”. The apostles and prophets form the foundation, while Christ Himself is the chief cornerstone.
Still using the imagery of a building, Paul presents in verse 22 another aspect of the Church. All believers together are regarded as forming the habitation of God. Jewish and Gentile believers are “builded together” to form this habitation. That means that God by the Holy Spirit lives in this temple that is formed by all believers. He does not live in churches, cathedrals or temples but in those who are redeemed by the blood of the Messiah.
The house of God is a place of blessing and testimony. A place where saints are blessed with the favour and love of God. Being blessed, they are a blessing to the world around.
In summary we see a twofold presentation of the Church:
1. As the body of Christ, composed of Jewish and Gentile believers united to Christ in glory;
2. as a temple, the habitation of God, composed of all the saints of the whole Christian period.
Revealing of the Divine mystery (verses 1-13)
“The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.” (Deut 29:29)
“For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not known unto the sons of men” (3:1-5a)
The whole of chapter three is different from Paul’s main discourse in his letter to the Ephesians. In the first thirteen verses we discover the purpose of God in Christ. This purpose, being the theme of this section, is an explanation of the mystery of Christ. This mystery was unknown to men, who knew from Tenach about the partaking of the nations in the salvation of the LORD. The full reality of this happening in the Messiah, however, had not been revealed yet.
“As it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.” (3:5b)
But, as Paul makes clear, we are dealing with a revelation, an unveiling of a mystery (from the Greek word mysterion), much like we find in apocalyptic literature such as in Dan 4:9;12:16-19. The word mysterion occurs some twenty-eight times in the New Testament, three of which are in the Gospels (Mat 13:11; Mark 4:11; Luke 8:20). In Paul’s letters it occurs twenty-one times. As a servant of Christ he has stewardship (from the Greek oikonomos) of these mysteries (1 Cor. 4:1). They deal with the hidden wisdom of God, which He “ordained before the world unto our glory” (1 Cor. 2:7). It is also called “the mystery of his will” (Eph. 1:9).“To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles” (Col. 1:27).
In the other Pauline letters we also find:
1. the mystery of the faith (1 Tim. 3:9);
2. the mystery of godliness (1 Tim. 3:16);
3. the mystery that all Israel shall be saved (Rom. 11:25-27);
4. the mystery of iniquity (2 Thess. 2:7, the man of sin);
5. the mystery of the wedding (Eph. 5:32);
6. the mystery that not all shall sleep, but all shall be changed (1 Cor. 15:51).
It also occurs four times in Revelation:
1. the mystery of the seven stars and the seven golden candlesticks (1:16-20);
2. the mystery of God (10:7);
3. the mystery of the woman (17:5-7, the great Babylon, mother of harlots and abominations).
“That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel” (3:6)
We are not partakers of an existent Jewish body but rather, Jews and Gentiles alike, of an entirely new body, namely that of Jesus the Messiah. Notice that this verse uses three concepts to explain this co-sharing (fellow heirs, same body and partakers of his promise in Christ). This last thing speaks about the promise given to Abraham that in his seed all nations of the earth will be blessed (Gen 12:3; Acts 3:25).
“Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; and to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ:”(3:7-9)
Paul writes that it is God’s power working in him. This mystery, revealed to His holy apostles and prophets, which was ordained for Paul to preach among the Gentiles (vs. 8) was hidden by God from the beginning of the world, who created all things by Jesus Christ (See also 1 Cor. 2:7). Furthermore the apostle speaks about the unsearchable riches of Christ. We have to search for these riches in the Word of God but will never grasp the full contents of them. How wonderful to discover more about the Beloved Messiah when we open the Scriptures because they testify of Him and in this way He becomes more and more precious.
“To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.” (3:10-12)
The manifold wisdom of God points to His infinite wisdom. This wisdom is made known to the principalities and powers in heavenly places, not to the world. We understand it here to be dealing with angelic powers as well. We also find them mentioned in Col. 1:16 and 1 Pet. 1:12. God's wisdom is manifold if we look at the creation, His dealings with His people Israel and the Church. Paul emphasizes that the Church is really something special in which the Lord unfolds His wisdom. Jews and Gentiles being a new unity together and in their relation to the Messiah, very close to Him being His body.
“According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: in whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.” (3:11,12)
Another translation would be ‘according to the purpose of the ages’. It means that through all the different ages (periods, Greek: aion) God works out His plans in Christ Jesus. As Paul writes in Romans 11: “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever.”
If we stick to the translation that is above this part then it means that God in eternity already had this plan which is then according to chapter 1 verse 4.
“Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.” (3:13)
Paul was suffering and at the time he wrote this letter he was in prison because he preached the gospel to the Gentiles. This ministry, given to him by the Lord Himself, was the reason for his imprisonment (Acts 22:21 and 22). He wishes that the Gentile believers will continue to support and pray for him so that he can continue this ministry.
Receiving of the Divine fullness (verses 14-21)
“For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,” (3:14-15)
Verses 14-21 also deal with the greatness of Christ’s love for us. In the Greek text of verse 15, the word for family (patria) has no definite article. Those meant here are all believers who call God their Father, in heaven (the glorified believers), as well as on earth (the believers still in the battle). Some commentators explain the concept of the whole family being ‘named’ (vs. 15) as to be given their being or their existence by the Father.
“That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;” (3:16)
Here we find the content of Paul’s prayer, which starts with ‘that’, emphasizing the goal of his prayer. It can only occur through the Holy Spirit, which empowers us (see also Gal. 5:25). The inner man speaks about the spiritual life also indicated as spirit. It is the new life we received at the moment of regeneration when we came to faith. The Holy Spirit of God is working in this part of our being and not in the old man.
“That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,” (3:17)
“Dwell in your hearts by faith” means that Christ has to be in the centre of our lives and thoughts, so that He can fill and rule our existence. This can only be accomplished by faith in Him and His Word. In Eph. 2:22 we already saw the image: man being an habitation of God through the Spirit.
“Being rooted in love” is in the imagery of a plant, with its roots firmly in the earth, while “grounded” is in the imagery of a house, built on a firm foundation.
“May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God.” (3:18-19)
Verses 18 and 19 follow the subjunctive mood of verse 16 and 17. The saints may know the Lord through Jesus Christ. The greatness of His love is shown in Him surrendering His life at the cross, where reconciliation between God and man took place. Verse 19 ties in with Eph. 1:23.
‘‘Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,‘‘ (3:20).
In chapter 1:20 we see that the power that works in us, is the power of His resurrection. This is far exceeding our own limitations and possibilities. This power is able to do exceedingly more than we pray for, or realize. The chapter ends with a doxology:
“Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen” (3:21)
The glory in the church unto God the Father can only be by or through the Messiah Jesus and this will last forever.
OUR WALK IN CHRIST
Our walk in Christ as the Church corporately (1-16)
“I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called”. (4:1)
On account of his testimony of the grace of God to the Gentile and Jewish believers, the Apostle had suffered persecution and imprisonment. He uses his sufferings as a motive to exhort the believers to walk worthily in accordance with their great privileges. Our walk has to be consistent with our calling.
“With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”. (4:2-3)
In these verses the Apostle sums up how we should walk in a manner that is worthy of our calling. If we walk in the realization that we have the privilege to represent Christ, our daily life should be marked by these seven qualities: lowliness, meekness, long-suffering, forbearance, love, unity and peace.
“There is one body, and one Spirit, even as we are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism; One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all”. (4:4-6)
The important question arises: What is the unity of the Spirit that we are to attempt to keep? It comes before us in the verses 4-6 and is set out in these seven unities: the one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism and one God and Father of all.
These are the great truths that the Spirit is to make genuine in our souls and is to maintain. Walking with one another in the light of these truths, we shall keep the unity of the Spirit. The one body is formed by one Spirit and moves on to the one end, that is the glory.
When we notice these seven unities then we see that 'one Lord' is the central Person. This makes clear that the Messiah Jesus is the Centre of God’s plan and dealing with mankind and also in our lives He has to take this place in a practical way.
“But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ, wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men”. (4:7-8)
While every member has its special function in the body of Christ, all serve the unity and good of the whole body. The “grace” is the special service to which each of us is favoured and is according to the measure in which Christ has given it. Christ has triumphed over all the power of Satan, and having delivered His people from the power of the enemy, He is exalted on high and has given gifts to His people.
“Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things; and he gave some, apostles, and some , prophets; and some evangelists; and some pastors and teachers”. (4:9-11)
At the cross, He went into the lowest place in which sin can put a man. He was made sin, God reckoned Him as a sinner, but He ascended to the highest place to which a man can be set, which is the right hand of God. He acts in power and makes others the instruments of His power. He gave the apostles and prophets, upon which foundation the body of Christ is built. The remaining gifts; evangelists, pastors and teachers are for the building up of the body of Christ after the foundation has been laid. These gifts continue during the whole period of the history of the body of Christ on earth. We notice that there are no miraculous gifts, as for example speaking in tongues or healing, mentioned in this passage. Miracles and signs in particular were given at the commencement to call the attention of the Jewish nation to the glory and exaltation of Christ and the power of His Name. The Jews rejected this testimony and we believe that therefore the signs and miracles ceased.
“For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ”. (4:12)
The Apostle gives us the three great goals for which the gifts are given. First, it is for the perfecting of the saints, the individual believers. Secondly, they are given for the work of the ministry, which would include every form of service. Thirdly, they are given “for the edifying of the body of Christ”. Every gift, whether it be evangelist, pastor or teacher is only rightly exercised when the edification of the body of Christ is kept in view.
“Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” (4:13)
‘The unity of the faith’ of which the Apostle speaks is ‘all truth’ in which the Spirit of truth wants to guide us in (John. 16:13). Connected with the faith is the knowledge of the Son of God. The knowledge of the faith is revealed in the Word and set forth in the Son of God. “The fullness” represents the thought of completeness and has in it the idea of growth.
“That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ”. (4:14-15)
There is a great danger of being “tossed to and fro” by listening to one and another. Our only safeguard against all error will be found in “holding the truth in love”, and having a living Christ before our eyes. All wisdom, power and faithfulness are in the Head, which is Christ.
“From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love”. (4:16)
In this verse Paul explains what the Lord is doing through the members of His body, the Church. He Himself as the Head of the body directs the individual believers in the special task everyone has so that the Body may grow. We notice the large place that love has in the body of Christ. We are to hold the truth in love and the edifying of the body is to be in love.
Our walk in Christ as believers individually (4:17-5:2)
“This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God , through the ignorance that is in them , because of the blindness of their heart; Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness”. (4:17-19)
The Apostle now exhorts us regarding the individual walk for those who confess the Lord in an evil world. We should no longer walk as other Gentiles. Their minds are darkened, ignorant of God and of the life that is according to God.
“But ye have not so learned Christ. If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus; that ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness”. (4:20-24)
In contrast to the vain and ignorant life of the Gentile world, the Apostle presents the life that follows out of the knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus.
The truth that we have been taught and learned in Him is that in unity with Him at the cross we have put off the old man and have put on the new. (see also Rom. 6:2-6) The “new man” does not mean the old man has changed, rather it speaks of an entirely new man. The “renewing” refers to the daily life of the new man.
“Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour; for we are members one of another. Be ye angry, and sin not, let not the sun go down upon your wrath. Neither give place to the devil.” (4:25-27)
We have to stop lying and start speaking the truth, remembering that we are members one of another. When we become angry, we have to be careful not to sin. The anger of the flesh against the evildoer will only lead to bitterness that occupies and taints the soul with thoughts of revenge. We are warned that by acting in the flesh, whether in anger or in any other way, we open the door for the devil.
“Let him that stole steal no more; but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. Let 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/ And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath and anger, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice. And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you”. (4:28-32)
In these verses we see that the life of the new man is in entire contrast to the old man.
He that stole should work not only for his own income, but also for the benefit of those who are in need. Remember the words of Zacchaeus: “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.” (Luke 19:8)
In all these things we should remember however that we are sealed with the Holy Spirit unto the day of redemption, (comp. 1:13) we have to be careful not to grieve the Holy Spirit. It again shows us that the Holy Spirit is a Person. Grief is a personal affection, of which a ‘power’ is not capable.
The day of redemption is the day when the Lord Jesus Christ “shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.” (Philip. 3:21)
“Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children;” (5:1)
In this part of the Epistle, believers are viewed in relationship to God as His children. The “therefore” of this first verse connects this part with the last verse of the preceding chapter. We are therefore exhorted to be followers of God “as dear children”. We have to treat others as our Father has done to us in Christ. In the verses that follow, the apostle develops the walk in accordance with beautiful moral traits.
“And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering, and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour”. (5:2)
As children we are exhorted to walk in love. Christ is set before us as the great example of this love. Christ did more, for He gave Himself to God as an offering and a sacrifice for us.
Our walk in Christ as regards sensual-living outsiders (5:3-21)
“But fornication. and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named amoung you, as becometh saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient; but rather giving of thanks. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is a idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God”. (5:3-5)
Our walk is to be ‘as is fitting to the saints’. The standard of our morality is not simply a walk that enables us to become a decent man, but one that that shows that we are saints. Moreover, the passing merriment that the world finds in filthiness and indecent talking is not fitting to the saint. Those who are characterized by uncleanness, covetousness and idolatry will not only miss the blessing of the coming kingdom of Christ and of God, but, being disobedient to the Gospel, they will come under the wrath of God. What will be true of the coming kingdom should mark the family of God today.
“Let no man deceive you with vain words; for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them”. (5:6-7)
We are warned not to be deceived with vain words. The sons of disobedience are those who have heard the truth, but have rejected it. Men will, however, be judged for their wicked deeds, although the crowning sin will be disobedience to the Gospel.
With such we are to have no fellowship. The children of God and the children of disobedience can have nothing in common.
“For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord; walk as children of light; for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth; proving what is acceptable unto the Lord”. (5:8-10)
Once we were darkness, now we are light in the Lord. We were characterized by a nature that is darkness. But now we are partakers of the divine nature, and that nature is marked by light and love. Being light in the Lord, we are to walk as children of light. This is a walk that will show itself in “all goodness and righteousness and truth”, for these things are the fruit of the Spirit.
“And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them, for it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret, but all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light; for whatsoever doth make manifest is light.” (5:11-13)
Now we are warned against having fellowship with the works of darkness. We should reprove them. To speak of the things that the flesh can do in secret is shame. The light of Christ reproves the evil that it exposes.
“Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead and Christ shall give thee light”. (5:14)
The unbeliever is dead to God. The true believer may fall into a condition of sleep in which he is like a dead man. There is no difference then between the believer and the unbelievers around him in the practical life. When we stand up, when we are living again as we ought to then Christ will give us light through His Word and Spirit.
“See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil, wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is”. (5:15-17)
We are exhorted to walk wisely. In an evil world the believer needs wisdom, but this wisdom is in regard with what is good. Our wisdom will be seen in redeeming the time and understanding what the will of the Lord is. The days are evil. It is possible to have a great knowledge of evil and yet be ignorant of the will of the Lord and thus still be “unwise”.
“And be not drunk with wine wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.” (5:18-21)
The believer filled with the Spirit will be marked firstly by a spirit of praise to the Lord. Secondly by submission, with thanksgiving to all that the Father allows. Thirdly, by submission to one another in the fear of God.
Our walk in Christ as regards special relationships (5:22-6:9)
In the following part of the Epistle we are exhorted to have a conduct that is fitting to believers in connection with earthly relationships. The apostle first speaks of the most intimate relationships, wives and husbands (5:22-33), then of the children and parents (6:1-4) and finally of servants and masters (6:5-9).
“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church, and he is the Saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it. That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word” (5:22-26)
In order to emphasize the subjection of the wife and the affection of the husband, the apostle turns aside to speak of Christ and the church. So we learn the great truth that earthly relationships were formed after the pattern of heavenly relationships.
The love of Christ is brought before us in a threefold way:
What His love has done in the past.
What it is doing in the present, and
What it will do in the future.
He not only died for us in the past; He is living for us in the present. Today He is sanctifying and cleansing the church with the washing of water by the Word. So we see the importance of the Word of God that is used by the Lord to cleanse us in a spiritual way as the water cleanses our body. Just as the water has to be taken and used to cleanse our body we have to accept the Word as individuals and as a company of believers to see its effect in our lives.
“That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish”. (5:27)
The present sanctification of verse 26 is connected with the presentation in glory of verse 27. This is the condition in which we shall be presented to Christ in glory: “holy and blameless”.
“So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church. For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.” (5:28-30)
The apostle presents Christ and His care for the church as the perfect pattern for the husband’s care for his wife. Christ watches over and cares for us, treating us as Himself, because “we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones”.
“For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery; but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband”. (5:31-33)
The Apostle quotes from Genesis, but he expressly states that this is a great mystery which has in view Christ and the Church. The Son of God left His Father and now He forms a unity with the Church. “Nevertheless”, says the Apostle, “let each husband see that he loves his wife as himself and let the wife rightly fear her husband.”
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right, Honour thy father and mother (which is the first commandment with promise;) That it may be well with thee and thou mayest live long on the earth”. (6:1-3)
The obedience of the child is to be “in the Lord”. This supposes a home governed by the fear of the Lord and therefore according to the Lord's will. The quotation from the Old Testament, which connects the promise of blessing with obedience to parents, shows how greatly God esteemed this obedience under the law.
“And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath; but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord”. (6:4)
Parents are to be careful not to irritate and repel their children and thus destroy their influence for good by losing their affection. Children are to be trained as living for the Lord, and as the Lord would bring them up.
“Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; with good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men; knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free. And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening; knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him”. (6:5-9)
For the believing servant to be obedient to an earthly master, a heart that is right with Christ will be required. What is done of good will to the Lord will have its reward. Believing masters are to be governed by the same principles as the Christian servants. Do everything as for the Lord.
Our walk in Christ as regards Satanic spirit-powers (6:10-20)
“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might”. (6:10).
The Apostle first directs our thoughts to the power that is for us before he describes the power that is against us. To face this conflict we must always remember that all our strength is in the Lord. Our difficulty often is to realize that we have no strength in ourselves. Apart from Christ we have no power. But the Lord says to us as He said to Joshua the son of Nun: “I will be with thee, I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee” (Josh. 1:5).
The epistle to the Ephesians is in a certain way connected with the book of Joshua. The people of Israel had already received the promised land (Josh. 1:3) but had to get it in possession by stepping on the land in faith. They faced strong cities and powerful enemies but the Lord would give them the victory if they would march on in belief. So we, as members of the Body of Messiah, have received all spiritual blessing but in living according to these blessings we experience Satan and his powers which will try everything to hinder us.
“Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places”. (6:11-12)
The conflict is against Satan and his host. Whatever the instrument used. Principalities and powers are spiritual beings in a position of rule with power to carry out their will. The world is in darkness and in ignorance of God. The believer is brought into the light and blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places. God gave us the armour but we have to put it on as a whole by faith so that we may be able to stand when the attacks come.
“Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand”. (6:13)
In this conflict human armour will not be sufficient. We can only withstand the devil in the armour of God. We learn that the armour of God is needed in view of the evil day, that is the day when Satan and his powers will attack us. There are days that we do not experience these attacks but it can be there suddenly. Therefore we need to check the armour every day as we have to be ready as soon as it comes.
“Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness”. (6:14)
In this verse we learn two pieces of armour:
The girdle of truth.
The breastplate of righteousness.
By applying the truth to ourselves it means that we cannot allow a lie in our life. With the second piece of armour, the breastplate of righteousness, we pass on to our practical conduct. This is expressed in the believer by a walk in consistency with the position and relationships in which he is set. When walking in practical righteousness, we shall be fearless when called to face the enemy in the evil day.
“And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace”. (6:15)
Practical righteousness leads to a walk in peace. The Gospel of peace that we have received prepares us to walk in peace amidst the world’s unrest. On the other hand we have to be ready to preach the gospel of grace and peace to those who are still unbelievers.
“Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked”. (6:16)
Above all, we need the shield of faith to protect us from the fiery darts of the enemy. Here faith is not only the reception of God’s testimony concerning Christ by which we are saved, but the daily faith and trust in God and His Word which gives us the assurance that God is for us.
“And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God”. (6:17)
Having on the helmet will enable the believer to hold his head up boldly in the presence of the enemy. We are thus enabled to go forward with courage and energy in the consciousness that, however weak we are in ourselves, God is the God of our salvation, and that Christ is able to save us to the uttermost.
We are definitely told that the sword of the Spirit is the Word of God, used in the Spirit. While the others are defensive, this is the one great offensive weapon. When this Word of God is used in the power of the Spirit against the enemy it is irresistible. See how the Lord Jesus uses the Word when He was tempted in the desert (Matth. 4:1-10) and says 'it is written'.
“Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; and for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am a ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak”. (6:18-20)
The apostle closes with the exhortation to pray. Prayer is the constant attitude of dependence upon God. Under all circumstances, in all places, and at all times, we are to pray. The apostle exhorts the Ephesians not only to pray for all saints, but also for himself.
Throughout the ages the saints have needed the armour of God, but in these closing days when the darkness of this world deepens and the deceits of the devil increase, how deeply important it is to put on the whole armour of God to “withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand”.
Paul ends with wonderful words of comfort and encouragement as he speaks about wishing the believers peace and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus the Messiah. He finally mentions grace, the word that is used so frequently in the ministry entrusted to him by His Lord and Saviour. When we love Him Who first loved us we will experience His amazing grace.