13. The Realm of Faith in Ephesians

Check Your Panoply

THE FIRST HINT of present truth came through the revelation of a new expectation in Thessalonians and Corinthians, where God reveals the secret of the resurrection—that the dead in Christ as well as we, the living, shall at the same time be snatched away, together, to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thess.4:13-18), and that not all of us shall be put to repose, yet that we all shall change, in an instant, in the twinkle of an eye, at the last trump (1 Cor.15:51-53). In the preceding verses, Paul had hinted at a celestial glory which is different from the terrestrial one and intimated that we should be wearing the image of the Celestial, the risen Christ, since flesh and blood are not able to enjoy an allotment in the kingdom of God (1 Cor.15:35-50).

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The readers of the Thessalonian epistles could not realize the full meaning of the statement, “And thus shall we always be together with the Lord!” They, as well as the Corinthians, knew a little about Christ’s terrestrial glories; they were aware of just a fraction of the great truth that God will head up the universe in Christ. They did know that Messiah will be Head over all the earth when Israel is redeemed.

Paul and his brethren according to the flesh were Israelites and would have had a place in this earthly Kingdom of the future, when the other nations will be ruled from Jerusalem. (In that day, however, no believer from among the nations can be in the ruling class since it is Israel’s exclusive right to exercise authority on earth). It was for Paul and a remnant chosen out of Israel that God changed their allotment from earth to heaven. He Who is operating all in accord with the counsel of His will had designated them beforehand for celestial, instead of terrestrial, blessings and glory. Now we can understand Paul when he writes, “Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who blesses us with every spiritual blessing among the celestials, in Christ.” This celestial expectation, however, was not limited to Paul and his Jewish brethren who had accepted his teaching; there were still others associated with the apostle, such as the Thessalonians and Corinthians and other non-Jewish believers who were also pre-expectant in Christ (Eph.1:3,12).

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The term “pre-expectant in Christ” was used in order to include both the believing Jews and non-Jews who had received the early revelations of the Thessalonian and Corinthian epistles; both groups of believers had a prior expectation, as compared to the later expectation of the earthly kingdom. Our Lord Jesus had prophesied that His return to the earth with power and much glory would be preceded by the great affliction, such as has not occurred from the beginning of the world till now (Matt.24:21, 30). But Paul received a special word from the risen Lord that He will meet us in the air in order to rescue us out of the coming indignation. “For God did not appoint us to indignation, but to the procuring of salvation [from it], through our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for our sakes that whether we may be watching or drowsing, we should be living at the same time together with Him” (1 Thess.1:10; 5:9,10).

This is the expectation which we hold; it will be fulfilled at an earlier date than the expectation pertaining to Christ’s terrestrial reign in the kingdom. Between these two events is the time of God’s indignation and the great affliction; it separates our prior expectation from the later expectation which is for Israel only. When Ephesians was written, our celestial expectation was the portion of Paul and the believing Jews who were with him, as can be gathered from the wording of the introductory verses 3 through 12. But since, in the beginning of verse 13, we of the nations are especially included by the words, “in Whom you also . . . “, the introductory verses pertain to us as well. We, too, are pre-expectant in Christ and are sealed with the holy spirit of promise which is an earnest, a sample and at the same time an assurance, that we all (Jewish and non-Jewish believers alike) will share the same allotment among the celestials. This is the first item of the present secret administration of God’s grace, which we might call the Godward aspect of the Ephesian secret, in order to distinguish it from its Christward and manward aspects.

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The accompanying chart of Ephesians, chapters one to three, is based on the Skeleton Index of this epistle, as published in the Keyword Concordance to the Concordant Version, page 341. The Roman figure I (on the accompanying chart) indicates the Godward aspect, II the Christward, and III the manward side of the Ephesian secret. These three aspects are dealt with at some length in sections 1:3-14 (I), 1:20-2:10 (II), and 2:11-22 (III). Section 3:1-13 brings a summary, I plus II plus III, which is followed by the second Ephesian prayer, 3:14-21. We find the first Ephesian prayer in section 1:15-19 where the sequel of the three aspects is I, III, II. There are three insertions in the first half of Ephesians, the first being a reference to the secret of Christ “in brief,” 1:8b- 10; the second a reference to past experience in the realm of faith (“the eyes of your heart having been enlightened”), 1:18a; and the third insertion is another reference to the secret of Christ, 3:3b-5.

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These few verses (1:8b-10; 1:18a; 3:3b-5) are, of course, essential parts of the original epistle. Only in a survey or chart may we call them “insertions” in order to indicate that they refer to other topics than that of the Ephesian secret proper.

During the past half century, this magazine has repeatedly published detailed material on the various phases of this secret, as may be gathered from the Indexes to volumes 1 through 50. The following quotations from volume XVIII, pages 18,19, and 70-73 will serve to show the general trend of these commentaries.

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“In spirit, the nations are to be

(I) joint enjoyers of an allotment
(II) a joint body
(III) joint partakers

“The analysis of the Ephesian epistle shows that 3:6 is not only a summary of the secret, but also of the whole letter, which is an elaborate and extended exposition of the secret, under these three divisions. The joint allotment of the nations is set forth in the first nineteen verses of the first chapter and ends with the first Ephesian prayer. The joint body occupies the next section. Joint participation is developed in the latter part of the second chapter, from verse eleven onward. (The second part of the letter also takes up these three subjects, but in reverse order).

“It will be seen that the bulk of the epistle is occupied with an orderly exposition of the three aspects of the secret. First, we have its relation to God in the celestial allotment, then its connection with Christ, as joint members of His body, then its bearing on other saints. Thus the entire epistle is practically dedicated to the task of enlightening all as to this secret economy.

“The Authorized Version rendering is ‘that the gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel.’ This loose paraphrase is most lamentable, for it is more apt to hide the secret than to reveal it. The revisers of 1611 certainly did not apprehend the ‘mystery’ or they would not have made such a lame translation. In the original, the word TOGETHER (Or joint, Greek: sun) is thrice repeated. They render it well once by fellow. Yet it certainly does not mean same, as they have it before ‘body.’ They omit its third occurrence entirely.

“That the nations were to be heirs or rather allottees (enjoyers of God’s allotment) was no secret. Long before this Paul had written to the Romans, ‘For you did not get slavery’s spirit to fear again, but you got the spirit of sonship, in which we are crying, Abba, Father! The spirit itself is testifying together with our spirit that we are children of God. Yet if children, enjoyers also of an allotment, enjoyers, indeed, of God’s allotment’ (Rom.8:15-17). Similarly, he expostulates with the Galatians, ‘Now, seeing that you are sons, God delegates the spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying Abba, Father! So that you are no longer a slave, but a son. Now if a son, an enjoyer also of God’s allotment, through Christ’ (Gal.4:6,7).

“That the saints among the nations were members of the body of Christ was no secret, for it was written, ‘For even as, in one body, we have many members, yet all the members have not the same function, thus we, who are many, are one body in Christ, yet individually members of one another’ (Rom.12:4,5). And again to the Corinthians, Paul repeats, ‘For even as the body is one and has many members, yet all the members of the one body, being many, are one body, thus also is the Christ. For in one spirit also we all are baptized into one body (1 Cor.12:12,13). At the time of Paul’s Roman imprisonment the ‘one body’ was well known.

“That the nations were partakers of His promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel was made known early in Paul’s ministry. It is the burden of the latter half of the book of Acts. Writing to the Roman saints, speaking of the contribution about to be taken for the Jerusalem saints, Paul declares, ‘If the nations participate in their spiritual things, they ought to minister to them in fleshly things’ (Rom. 15:27).

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“Since the Ephesian secret evidently did not consist in being an ‘heir’ or allottee (enjoyer of God’s allotment), or in membership in the body of Christ, or in participation in the promise, wherein does it lie? Its whole point and force are found in that thrice-repeated word TOGETHER, fellow, or, as we have rendered it, joint. It lies in the fact that the nations no longer enjoyed these three blessings subordinate to the Circumcision. It puts them on the same footing, in the same rank, with the favored nation. It makes them the peers of that privileged people.

“The nations could not be joint allottees (joint enjoyers of God’s allotment) before, because the allotment was at that time on the earth and Israel must have the supreme position there. The nations must always be alienated from the citizenship of Israel (Eph.2:12). Hitherto they could not be members of a joint body because the members were of various ranks, corresponding to our physical body (1 Cor.12:21). As long as the nations were to be blessed with Israel on the earth, they could not be joint partakers. They could only be guests (Eph.2:12). At that time the Jew was still first and the nations were Israel’s debtors (Rom.1:16; 2:9; 10;15:27).

“The Ephesian secret reveals that the nations have been accorded an allotment, a membership in a body, and a partnership in the promise which Paul had preached, all in equal measure, in as high degree, and in every way the same as that given to the remnant of Israelites to whom they are united. This is the message of the small but emphatic prefix joint.

“Each of the three unfoldings of the secret is concerned with a different relationship:

(I) The Godward side is seen in connection with the celestial allotment.
It is concerned with our place in His predestination, His purpose,
and the counsel of His will.

(II)    The Christward side comes before us in dealing with the joint body,
of which He is the Head.

(III)   The manward side of the secret is developed in dealing with our
joint participation with the saints.

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“The Godward aspect of the secret comes before us first (Eph.1:3-14). It is divided into two larger sections; in the first (1:3-12) the allotment of Paul and the Israelites associated with him is transferred from earth to heaven. Their blessedness is among the celestials. They reign, not on earth, but in the wider sphere of the universe. In the second section (1:13,14) the nations (‘you also’) are accorded the same allotment because they have received the same spirit, and have the same earnest. Hence they are joint enjoyers of these celestial honors.

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“The Christward side of the secret is developed next (Eph.1: 20-2:10). First He, as the Head of the whole universe, is given His place above all. Then His body is introduced as the universal complement. Israel will be His instrument in Earth’s redemption. The ecclesia which is His body will reconcile the celestial realm. Both Jew and Gentile are included when He

vivifies us together (2:5),
rouses us together (2:6) and
seats us together

among the celestials, in Christ Jesus. Hence the members are all of equal rank. It is a joint body.

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“The manward side of the secret is the last to be elaborated (Eph.2:11-22). The distinction between Israel and the nations was a matter of flesh, summarized in the rite of circumcision. This left them, even after they believed the evangel, ineligible to the citizenship of Israel, mere guests, of the covenants, with no expectation or God of their own, as far as the flesh is concerned. But now that they are joint allottees and members of a joint body, and all their blessings are spiritual, the fleshly disabilities vanish. As a result, they are fellow-citizens, and members of God’s family and are built together for God’s dwelling place, in spirit (2:19-22).”

The second of the two accompanying charts serve to show the aspects which are referred to by the various keywords and phrases, whether they elaborate our relation to God (I), to Christ (II), or to one another (III). At this juncture, we will omit the three short insertions as well as the second Ephesian prayer which, D.V., we may take up at a later date.

In the second chart, section 1:3-14 is referred to by the phrase our lot cast by God. This includes each and everything which God does for us: He blesses us with every spiritual blessing among the celestials, He chooses us in Christ before the disruption of the world (before sin was existent), He designates us beforehand for sonship, He graces us in His beloved Son, He lavishes the riches of His grace on us, He operates all in accord with the counsel of His will, with the aim in view that we should be for the laud of His glory, we who have a prior expectation in Christ.

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It is this Godward aspect of the secret which Paul has in mind when, in the first Ephesian prayer, he refers to it with the words, “the expectation of His calling” (1:18). Since it was God Who cast our lot, it is almost redundant to say that it is God’s allotment of which we are joint enjoyers, as indicated in the summary (3:6).

The first Ephesian prayer ends with the Christward aspect of the secret, namely, with a plea for recognizing the transcendent greatness of God’s resurrection power for us (while we are believing) which is in accord with God’s mighty strength, operative in Christ (1:19). This is immediately followed by section 1:20-2:10, pertaining to our union with Christ. Thus the last plea of this prayer leads right over to the exposition of the Christward aspect where we see Christ seated at God’s right hand among the celestials, up over every sovereignty and authority and power and lordship, and every name that is named.

Christ’s exaltation is an intimation and an example of God’s power on behalf of those who are believing. And He gives the risen Christ as Head over all to us, the ecclesia which is His body. But if the Head of the body is thus exalted, then the members must be likewise. And so it is indeed: God’s resurrection power vivifies and rouses us jointly, in Christ, and seats us jointly among the celestials, in quite the same way as Christ. This is the fullest expression of God’s rich mercy, the supreme revelation of His vast love (1:20-23; 2:4-6). All of this is in view when Paul uses the summarizing term “joint body” in 3:6.

The manward aspect of the Ephesian secret is referred to in the second plea of the prayer and pertains to the riches of the glory of the enjoyment of God’s allotment among the saints (1:18). The corresponding exposition on our relations to one another is given in section 2:11-22 for which we have used the key phrase, our participation with the saints. It is based on the fact that now both Jewish and non-Jewish believers are reconciled in one body to God through the cross. All have now, in one spirit, access to the Father. Hence they are “joint partakers of the promise” (3:6).

We may take it that the recipients of the Ephesian circular letter were neither immature nor unspiritual. They were prepared for the message of this epistle, for the eyes of their hearts had been sufficiently enlightened by earlier revelations, the same way as God shines in our hearts, with a view to the illumination of the knowledge of His glory (Eph.1:18a; 2 Cor.4:6b). But since there are so many deceiving spirits in the world, Paul deemed it necessary to pray for his readers that they may be given a special spirit of wisdom and revelation, so as to perceive the three aspects of the Ephesian secret. All believers at all times have had a measure of God’s spirit; without this special spirit, however, the rich revelations of the Ephesian letter and the two other prison epistles cannot be apprehended. If anyone has not yet realized the summit of divine knowledge, wisdom, and love, it is because this special spirit is still lacking. Hence we entreat our readers to join with Paul in praying for a fuller understanding of the calling, the allotment, and the power of God for us who are believing.

Now to Him Who is able to do superexcessively above all that we are requesting or apprehending, according to the power that is (already) operating in us, to Him be the glory!

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